Natural disasters don’t discriminate based on age. Everyone in a community is affected when a typhoon hits, from the youngest to the oldest. Given that climate change is driving an increase in the number and severity of storms, floods, and drought, even young children need to learn to be prepared.
USAID’s ABC+ project has started producing books for K-3 readers in the Philippines that will cover these and other subjects. In partnership with the Philippine Government’s Department of Education, the project has brought together the expertise of local authors and illustrators, and partners such as SIL LEAD and The Asia Foundation to produce books for early grade learners using software such as BLOOM and Let’s Read in their respective mother tongues.
Mother-tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) refers to “first language first” education, where schooling in the early grades begins in the mother tongue and later transitions to additional languages. UNESCO promotes MTB-MLE approaches in education, and research shows these positively affect learning and learning outcomes.
Since its inception in 2019, the ABC+ project has conducted a series of workshops on book development and adaptation of materials. Participants from the education and creative sectors are encouraged to develop ideas around issues related to environment and climate change, social inclusion, and gender equity—themes that have been reviewed and approved by a team of editors and experts from the Department of Education (DepEd).
“We provide broad guidance on possible themes, sharing with them the main thematic areas of the DepEd curriculum alongside the social guidelines to ensure they draw inspiration from the realities and local context as they create their own stories,” says Elaine Trinos, ABC+ Instructional Delivery and Materials Advisor, describing how the project works with authors. ABC+ has developed more than 200 titles in the project’s first year alone.
Trinos says that one of the project’s intentions, beyond instilling a love of reading, is to build children’s awareness of climate issues by using real-life local examples, aligned with the priorities of the Department of Education. “DepEd’s core areas in the curriculum include disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, providing guidance on how this can spiral for K-12 learners. In ABC+, we hope to support this through developing stories for K-3 children that can build such knowledge through day-to-day context.”
Many potential authors are interested in climate risk management themes. “We have more participants who see the value of writing about these themes, particularly disaster preparedness, in areas like Bicol, which is regularly hit by typhoons every year,” says Marly Anne Bacaron, ABC+ Senior Program Manager.
In the meantime, at least two authors have picked up the theme of environmental protection through litter prevention, recognizing that the Philippines is the one of the world’s largest sources of plastic trash. John Fredric Bugayon, a science teacher and environmental advocate, wrote about “Strawla, the Queen of Garbage” in the Hiligaynon language. Bothered by the viral video of a sea turtle with a straw in its nose, he wanted to tell the story of the impact of plastic on the environment through the perspective of a straw. Estrella Marco is currently finalizing her story in Central Bikol entitled “Basura Lapon nin Tama.” Her story about how to properly throw away one’s trash was inspired by the health of her 4-year-old child, who had frequent cases of mosquito-borne dengue fever since so many mosquitoes were breeding in trash piles around their home.
More reading materials on the environment and climate change will be developed every year. The five-year project intends to make the reading materials accessible throughout the country through the Department of Education’s online platform and globally through Let’s Read and the BLOOM Library.
Christine Chumbler is a communications professional with more than 20 years experience in writing, editing, and publications design. She has expertise in every stage of publication production, from concept and writing to editing, design, and printing. In the mid-1990s, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. This experience led to a career using her writing and editorial skills with international development and foreign policy organizations, many of which worked to directly support USAID’s efforts. She has worked in a freelance capacity full-time since May 2016. Chumbler has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.