My first venture into children’s literature was an elective class I took up in college. Prior to that, I’ve never really seen children’s books as anything more than a source of entertainment and a way to pass time. Fresh out of college, I decided to apply for an internship in Adarna House so I could learn more about children’s literature. At the time, I only wanted to gain practical experience in writing for children.

I was assigned to Adarna Group Foundation, where I learned just how much a book can change a child’s life. Through AGFI, I was introduced to the merits of early literacy.  In terms of educational intervention, literacy programs catering to mothers, toddlers, infants, and unborn babies are practically unheard of, which is why I can say that AGFI is a trailblazer of sorts. Driven by its vision to make every Filipino child literate, AGFI, through its four core programs, promotes early literacy by distributing age- and culturally- appropriate books, training healthcare professionals, partnering with local government units and other like-minded organizations, and encouraging parents to start their children’s education at home.

More than just words on paper, what AGFI set out to accomplish is echoed in all that it does. Being an intern meant I could tag along in learning sessions, which allowed me to see firsthand how AGFI’s vision translates in real life. Every opportunity to work with people who’ve made it their mission to spread the word on the importance of early literacy is a learning one. Although run only by a small team, AGFI’s work in the communities it operates in are by no means small or inessential. By promoting early literacy, AGFI provides the children from impoverished families a way out of the cycle of poverty and dependency.

I used to be under the impression that the process of making a child literate entails big steps - deliberate attempts to teach literacy, substantial economic resources to afford good education, and constant guidance to make sure the children grow up to be smart and successful. Through AGFI, I’ve grown to realize how even the smallest changes -  a book given, a mother taught, a child’s interest sparked - can start a ripple effect - the book that turns into a small library, the mother that becomes an advocate for early literacy, the child that grows to love reading. AGFI’s work is proof that even with limited resources, there is something that can be done. Big hopes, after all, start with small steps.

By: Maria Isabel R. Cañaveral