I remember I was four years old when our neighbor launched a general house cleaning, and disposed a sack-ful of hardbound books. I was outside playing when they asked me to call my mother. The elderly neighbor said we could have all the books if my mother would have a place for them at home. My mother said we might not have enough place for all of them, but offered to look into the pile and chose some. The neighbor agreed. As a result, I got my first hardbound children's books with drawings of white kids playing, praying, and studying.
At four, I still couldn't read, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the books which smelled just heavenly. I remember "reading" to myself made-up stories behind the drawings. I was already a storyteller even before I could read!
Thinking of that, I decided to read to my two nephews as early as when they were two and four, respectively. (They are now three and five. ) Since I couldn't read to them Moliere (Heck, I couldn't read Moliere even to myself!), I chose the book beside it: The Bible. How they loved the Story of Creation, and the Story of the First Christmas! They loved them so much we must have read them repeatedly for a month. Of course, I had to translate them to Filipino first. We have decided early that the children's first language would be Filipino. Therefore, no teaching of English unless they ask for some translation of the cartoons they watch on TV.
Today, we have quite a list of books and stories we've read together. Those in English, I still translate to Filipino. Here's my nephews' reading list:
1. Ang Paglalakbay ni Butirik, ang Dyip na Masungit (a 1993 Palanca Awardee for Short Story for Children)
2. Alamat ng Butanding
4. Ang Alamat ng Ibong Adarna
5. Jesus, the Healer
6. The Ugly Duckling
8. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
9. Pinocchio (Because of Pinoccio, my 3-year-old nephew now calls banana que "Pinocchio," bananas on a long stick)
Of the stories we've read, it is Butirik that we keep on going back to. They have come to know the story page by page, picture after picture. You cannot fool the kids. They know when you try to skip pages to quickly finish reading it. Even I can tell the story with my eyes closed, flipping the right pages where the scenes go.
Reading Jesus the Healer, they now know what a "synagogue" is, or why a "ketongin" is an outcast in society, and that Jesus has turned evil spirits into pigs.
Oh, how they hated Scrooge and the Christmas ghosts! But sincerely felt sorry for Tiny Tim.
When the right time comes, we shall have a ceremonial handing of the key to the Harry Potter collection. Can't wait.