A study conducted in 2002 among public school students of the Philippines’ National Capital Region (NCR) revealed that after completing first grade, forty percent (40%) of the students were still nonreaders. Almost half of the seven- and eight-year olds in the nation’s capital were unable to recognize or spell their own name.
It was then that the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), the Department of Education (DepEd), and Adarna House, armed with the expertise of top educators from the University of the Philippines, developed materials to respond to the alarm sent off by the 2002 study. Thirty-two (32) illustrated picture books in large format — the books’ spread measuring 22 inches wide and 17 inches long — were created, together with a lesson plan guide for teachers.
Twenty-eight (28) of these books were in the vernacular, and the remaining four (4) were in English. The program proponents pushed Filipino as the first language of reading, with several studies relating student achievement to the use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction. With a literature-based integrated approach, the story is used to introduce concepts in other subject areas, and to develop grammar and oral language.
When the program was launched as Bright Minds Read (BMR) in 2003, the campaign included seminars to train DepEd officials how to teach their colleagues to use the BMR materials. The materials, aside from the big books and the lesson plan, included workbooks for the pilot students, and pretest and posttest evaluations.
BMR piloted in 14 schools that DepEd selected in NCR, involving 5 classes per school, covering around 4,200 students. The pretest and posttest results showed that in the pilot year alone, the percentage of Grade 1 nonreaders dropped from 40% to 4%. It was found that the mastery of reading skills increased by 15% on average, with the highest increase registering at over 40%. Teachers of the pilot classes also reported no absenteeism among their students.
To date, Bright Minds Read has covered 2,000 schools all over the country. By 2009, the pilot students will be graduating from grade school, and BMR will have developed a continuous program from Grade 1 to Grade 6 — going beyond teaching children how to read, but also to love and value reading.
BMR has earned the support of local governments and private corporations and individuals in its efforts towards building a nation of zero nonreaders. BMR kits — containing all the BMR materials to be used by the Grade 1 level of the whole public school — costing only ten thousand pesos have been donated by various organizations and municipalities nationwide to their selected public schools.
The programs’ proponents hope that through Bright Minds Read, the number of nonreaders in public elementary schools can be minimized, and that private institutions and individuals will be encouraged to participate in the effort to improve the quality of public education and make reading every Filipino’s lifelong passion.