The USAID ABC+: Advancing Basic Education in the Philippines project is set to make Kinaray-a children’s stories available online. This will be done through the Let’s Read (www.letsreadasia.org) program of The Asia Foundation, one of the implementing partners of the USAID funded ABC+ project.

BookLabs are usually done face to face where aspiring writers work with experienced writers in writing stories for children. The stories will then be illustrated by new illustrators who are mentored by art directors. Due to the pandemic, this year’s BookLab will be done virtually. The virtual activity will enable the participation of award-winning Kinaray-a writers Alex Delos Santos, Early Sol Gadong, Dr. Jesus Insilada, Jose Edison Tondares, and Linda Arnaez-Lee. They will provide inputs to the selected writers on how to write Kinaray-a stories for children.

This year, the ten (10) Kiniray-a BookLab writers are Anna Cecilia Pefianco, Jessa Payofelin, Julbert Paloma, Katherine Santillan, Kea Chiva, Kriezel Elbanbuena, Mark Joseph Salinog, Mark Joseph Torrechila, Maryam Nietes and Zairheen Nunal. They were chosen from a pool of applicants who applied for the BookLab.

The booklab will include talks on the availability and future of Kinaray-a children’s literature by Alex Delos Santos, a Kinaray-a literary critic and writer, and on writing stories for children by Dr. Alice Tan-Gonzales, a multi-awarded fiction writer. A series of online workshops will be conducted this month until August to finalize the stories. After which, ten aspiring and promising illustrators will be selected to bring the stories to life on the pages. The fully-illustrated children’s books will undergo the Department of Education’s rigid quality assurance process. Once quality assured, they will be printed and distributed in Kinaray-a communities as learning materials and will be available online on the Let’s Read library.

In partnership with St. Anthony’s College and the University of Antique, ABC+ is also translating books in the Let’s Read library into Kinaray-a. Around 80 translated books will be completed by volunteers before the year ends. These activities will help in increasing access to books in the mother tongue of Kinaray-a children.

The ABC+: Advancing Basic Education in the Philippines project helps to improve early reading, math, and social and emotional skills for early grade children (K–3) in the Philippines particularly in Regions V (Bicol) and VI (Western Visayas), and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). It focuses on improving children’s early literacy in their mother tongue and the transition of their reading ability to Filipino and English. ABC+ is a partnership of the Department of Education (DepEd) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented by RTI International together with The Asia Foundation, SIL LEAD, and Florida State University.