Akira as a carabao (and how a little girl began to love books)

To be specific, Akira was a kalabaw, since it’s a reference to a Filipino children’s book by Virgilio S. Almario.

Ang Mabait na Kalabaw (The Good Carabao) is one of the two Filipino children’s book that we have bought for Akira. Since she and her classmates were asked to come to school as their favorite Pinoy children’s book character, there was no question to me that she would dress up as a carabao!

The occasion was National Children’s Book Day, and Akira’s school asked the kids to come as their favorite Filipino story book character, or just a favorite book character.

We picked up two Filipino children’s books when Akira was younger, namely Ang Mabait na Kalabaw and Naaay! Taaay!. We were looking for simple short stories, and these two were a joy to read, so cutely illustrated, and had a simple moral value to impart as well. Akira tends to have a ‘flavor of the month’ when it comes to books, and these two enjoyed a good bedtime run in our home.

We could have dressed her up as a Berenstain Bear, also one of her favorites, or Ana or Elsa, and save us the trouble since there are ready made costumes for sale in the malls. But we do have a favorite Filipino story book character – the good carabao – and Akira dressed up as her!

Akira the carabao! Actually, a lot of the yayas thought it was a cow costume, so close enough, I guess. This is our very first DIY school costume ok, don’t judge! 😀

Getting Akira into books

We started reading to Akira when she was a baby as part of a soothing or relaxing routine to get her to sleep. So yes, reading to her wasn’t just a bedtime thing 🙂

We didn’t limit ourselves to children’s books, since it was all background sounds as far as she was concerned at the time. I remember reading aloud news articles, and Jason would read snippets from a novel he was reading. It was a challenge (and a trip!) to read them slowly and in exaggerated tones.

The very first children’s book we bought. J had us bedtime readers in mind when he bought this because the stories were new and interesting and they were a short read (for reading aloud). Unfortunately, Akira’s not interested in this book yet, when I suggest we read this book, she asks for something else.

J is the type who would splurge on books for us, but even more so for his little girl. Surprisingly enough though, he got lucky a lot of times and didn’t really need to spend so much. For instance, there were these Disney compilation books that he got at a discount for some minor damages. We read a lot from those books, especially since Aki can get pretty obsessive with favorites. She’d frequently request for the same story until she moves on to the next. We read stories with Mickey Mouse, Simba and Nala, Lady and the Tramp, and Bambi and Dumbo in them.

Aki also has a godfather that’s got spot-on taste in books, she’s loved every single one of his gifts. I also love reading these books to her, I enjoy the stories. It’s only until later that I discovered they were popular titles. He has a knack for giving books that are appropriate and enjoyable for her age, and the titles gradually adjusted as she grew older, too.

For instance, his Christening (or was it a first birthday…) gift was a touch-and-feel version of The Gruffalo. Over time I have memorized this story, we have read it that much. Then there was The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which even came with a small plush caterpillar. We call caterpillars itchy worms 🙂 Recently, he gifted Akira with a 60th anniversary edition of Eloise. We’ve begun reading that, and she’s warming up to it, too.

Sometimes she would fall asleep even before the story is finished, but there are also times when you’d read three to five stories and she’s still not sleepy. If that’s the case, we would just stop and lay together until sleep comes. Or I’d play some lullabies. Those soft music helps a lot, too. This is our favorite, also available in Spotify, Nokto Naptime. Aki knows this one, she’d tap on the Spotify logo on my phone and look for the blue owl. How such young kids are so innately adept with gadgets and technology is mind boggling.

Our growing kid’s library. There are smaller ones in a separate basket, including the non-storybook ones and several Bible story books, and the thicker books for when she gets older.

Where are the Filipino books?

A lot of Filipino children’s books don’t come hardbound, which is sad because some of these books also come beautifully illustrated and would look great in any table or book shelf. I understand that the market is small for it, unfortunately, but on the bright side, the lower cost makes it more accessible to more families.

As book lovers ourselves, we’re happy that Akira has developed a love for books, too. But more than getting her into books, we both agree that Filipino stories should also be a part of her growing library, and that she should hear and learn spoken Filipino in our home.

When it comes to books, it’s great that there are numerous titles available in Filipino, and for all reading levels. There’s almost nothing else out there. There are no (or at least good or interesting) Filipino or Tagalog children’s apps or popular YouTube channels that can teach kids Filipino rhymes or children’s songs. There are no children’s programs on TV like Batibot either, so the love for our own language will come nowhere else but from the home and from the parents.

Last week, as far as I know, Akira was the only one that came in costume from a Filipino story book. Of course there were Disney princesses, and Akira had a classmate who was into planets and space, so she had little Saturn planets taped all over her black shirt and pants. It was very cute, and it’s a great thing that these kids are beginning to or already have an interest in books.

It would be better though if we can include more exposure to Filipino stories. Sometimes the first step is something the parents will have to do – go to the bookstore, scour the aisles, bring home the books and read to the children. I think they’ll eventually get to liking them, too. Which reminds me, I have bought new Filipino titles, we should start reading them soon.

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