We're Reading: Adarna House Books

We just returned from this year's Manila International Book Fair, braving the traffic, the crowds, the potential bankcruptcy, all for the love of books.

For us, this year's star was Adarna House. I'd planned on buying just one or two storybooks for our helpers to read to Ella (and Little J), but seeing the shelves and stacks of great titles, I picked up a few more. Workbooks, storybooks, ABC (alpabeto) books for baby J, books for when the kids are older. I'd have brought home these posters if I had anymore wall space. 

We can't get enough of Adarna House books! Find out why after the jump.

Five Reasons We Love Adarna House:

1. Its legacy of publishing good books
The Adarna House publishing house has been around since the 80s, so if you were a child in the 80s, you probably read Adarna books, if not at home then at school. I still remember flipping through the tattered pages of Dragong Pula, Bilog na Itlog, Nang Magkakulay ang Nayon, and Digong Dilaw as a child. My brothers and I didn't grow up speaking Filipino in our family, but somehow these stories (aided by the illustrations) transcended whatever language barriers we may have had and still managed to captivate our young imagination. These classics, which teach basic preschool lessons like colors, shapes, and numbers, as well as important values like care for the environment, respect for elders, and generosity, have been reissued as part of a five-volume collection called Kwentong Adarna that would be a welcome addition to any Filipino kid's shelf.

2. Its relevance to the digital generation
I was reintroduced to Adarna House as a mom when a friend recommended A Day in the Market (Araw sa Palengke), one of their ebooks (App Store / Google Play), as a way to keep Ella busy during a family trip to Korea. I'd recommend this storybook app even to non-Filipino speakers. The story is simple but sweet. The illustrations are top-notch. The interactive options are easy enough for even the youngest readers and continue to be engaging even after repeated play. E also enjoys the ebook But That Won't Wake Me Up (and its companion print book But That Won't Make Me Sleep).

Ella got to dress up as one of her favorite story book characters for a Smart Parenting feature!

3. Its wonderful selection of books for all ages
Of the books we got at the fair, E's hands-down favorite is Bahay Kubo. She'd learned the song from our helpers, so she loved finding out what all those funny-sounding words actually meant and what those mysterious vegetables actually looked like. She immediately took the book downstairs and told her ates, "Basa ako!" (Okay, we're still working on proper grammar) then proceeded to recite the song while turning the pages.

(A little anecdote: E's in that lovely why stage of toddlerhood, so as she showed her new book to her grandparents over FaceTime, she asked them, "Why does the upo't kalabasa have eyes and mouths and hands?" Have you tried explaining anthropomorphism to a two-year-old? Let me know how that goes.)  

Second runner-up is The Moon is My Friend. This lovely bedtime book describes the different phases of the moon in poetic, creative language. Story books are a great way to introduce scientific concepts to young readers. One pre-science concept toddlers can grasp is the value of observation. Perhaps E had never noticed that the moon has many phases (or, to her, faces). Maybe, now, she'll look up at night and see the moon, her friend, differently.  

We also enjoyed Maghanap Namin ni Nanay. I do wish, though, that there were a version for urban moms, who "type-type" instead of "tahip-tahip". I tried to explain to E why I don't do most of the activities in the book with her. We don't cook rice together or feed the chickens. E likes to pretend sweep with her mini broom, but not with me. It stung a little to realize that the book could very well have been called Maghapon Namin ni Ate Malou. Modern moms can be magical too, right? (Any recommendations for a book that suits us better?) The book ends with the mom and daughter snuggling in bed. That we can do. E liked that part best.

4. Its entertaining way of educating
A surprising favorite find at the fair were the activity books, Figure This Out 1 and 2 and Let's Count. With bilingual instructions, cute illustrations, and a wide variety of activities for pre-math and logic, I'm excited to use these for totschooling. The questions also make a good jump-off point to give the helpers ideas for how to stimulate E's thinking during playtime. E's still a little young to do Sanayang Adarna on her own, so these are going to be filed away for when she's preschool age. 

Logic problems for littles

E's not quite ready for ordinal numbers, but she's happy just counting the cute bunnies.

5. Its use of bilingual text
If you're trying to raise your child to be bilingual, read to them in both languages. As a mom in a multicultural family, I appreciate that there are books available locally that cater to my child's various mother tongues. When we were in Seoul, we found a lot of great board books in English and Korean, so I'm glad to be able to start building a collection of bilingual books in Filipino and Engish as well. Having a book written in two languages saves us the trouble of having to translate the text on the fly (which we often have to do since E is more fluent in and familiar with one language over the other). We also don't risk completely butchering the text in the process. None of the poetry of the original text is lost in makeshift translation.

Having bilingual books at home also allows the helpers to fully participate in the important activity of reading. E loves books and often asks our helpers to read to her, especially before naps. To put it kindly, let's just say it's not good for her linguistic development to hear her yaya attempt some of the tongue twisters in E's favorite English-language books. 

As a bonus, children's books are also simple enough for her Filipino-speaking Korean-American papa to read to her so he can also practice his Tagalog and build his vocabulary. It warms my heart to hear my Korean-American husband read to my Filipino-Korean-American child in Tagalog, and even ask her questions about the story afterwards. 

All the languages our family speaks are important and they should all be treated with respect. I was raised speaking only English, with Filipino being relegated to a secondary language only spoken by the helpers. As a result, I didn't feel it was important for me to learn it until I was much, much older. This is a common problem for multicultural families and third-culture kids. For our third-culture kid, hearing her parents speak Filipino (and Korean) helps her internalize that these are her languages, too. We want our kids to accept and embrace all the parts of their identity, and language plays a big role in that.

In short, thank you, Adarna Books!

Download their full catalogue or check out their selection at leading bookstores nationwide.