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  • How 5 Filipina Children's Book Authors Win Your Child's Heart

    They create stories that inspire and get kids to listen. What’s the secret?
    by Alexine Parreno .
How 5 Filipina Children's Book Authors Win Your Child's Heart
  • Your kids can be such different people (well-behaved, listens to the grown-up) when they’re in school. And the same thing can be said when they meet their favorite children’s book authors. It’s, well, magical how our kids ask us to read the same book repeatedly. How do the children’s book authors do it? How do they get our kids to listen and get lost in their world? And how do they go from child to writing a book?

    From getting caught stealing small peso bills from dad’s dresser to coloring chickens blue, five Filipina authors share their childhood memories and the lessons they took to heart that shape who they are today. 

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    Jean has authored two award winning-winning titles, Papa’s House, Mama’s House (2004) and Tight Times (2007), both of which won the highest award granted by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY), the Alfredo Salanga Prize for Children's Literature. She is also a college professor of economics and interdisciplinary studies at the University of St. La Salle Bacolod and mom of three (Thea,24; Polo, 19; and Bea, 17).

    I started writing in my diaries when I was 8 years old. 
    During recess, while the other children played, I'd sit under a tree and write about all I saw and what I felt and thought of them. It was just a small Golden Gate spiral notebook that I carried around with me.

    Something I vividly remember about my childhood that left a lasting impression…
    We lived on the mezzanine floor of our general merchandise business in a public market. I grew up seeing all sorts of people coming to our store and hearing the "sukis" tell my parents' their stories. One could say I've seen the scum of life as well as the nobility of people in their everyday struggles. Since our mom forbade us to play with the street kids, she gave us books, pen and paper, and art materials. Looking back now, it was good training for writing (characters and stories, and not much physical activities) and for letting our imaginations run wild.

    The children who read my books have taught me…
    Children are never too young to understand the challenges of life, if you explain it to them at their own level respectfully and open-mindedly.

    As a children’s book author, if I could tell parents one thing…
    Respect your children. Listen to your children. They are souls encased in little, younger bodies, but they have a lot to teach you if you listen well.

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    A full-time illustrator and designer for Studio Dialogo, Jamie has illustrated seven children’s books during her spare time. The author of the well-loved Sandwich to the Moon is just 29 years old. She showcases her work on jamiebauza.com

    My mom was the biggest influence in my childhood and the person who shaped who I am today. 
    She’s always been very strong and a get-things-done type of person, and I admire that about her. No matter what hardships our family goes through or how many things she must do daily, she always keeps her head up and never gives up on us or on herself. She makes me want to work hard and to follow my dreams.

    One of the greatest lessons my parents taught me… 
    Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time. There were a lot of things I tried but wasn’t good at like ballet and playing the drums. But it didn’t stop my parents from encouraging me to try things. You don't necessarily have to be good at something to enjoy it anyways.

    As a children’s book author and illustrator, if I could tell parents one thing…
    I would emphasize the importance of reading, and of learning to love books from a young age. It's fun, and they will learn so much about different things and about themselves! Being exposed to different kinds of books will also allow kids to empathize with other people from different backgrounds.

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    Zarah is a full-time teacher/librarian of Beacon Academy and has authored five picture books and Start Right Reading, an early reading series with 12 picture books and a teacher’s manual. The author of My Daddy! My One and Only Daddy! is the proud mama of Nico, 20, and Zoe, 16. 

    I espouse creativity and creative thinking by encouraging my kids and students to ask “What if...?” and my reply is always, “Why not?”

    Something I vividly remember about my childhood that left a lasting impression…
    I had a classmate in first grade who colored his chickens blue, his kittens red and his boys and girls with all sorts of colors put together—like rainbow people. My grade one teacher would always correct him, but he would never follow nor adhere to her corrections. Once I did the same by using purple to color an apple. Our grade one teacher had to separate our seats, and this somehow made me feel isolated. When my mom learned of this incident, she compelled me to follow the norm and “rules,” as all students are supposed to. This was in the late 70s and Martial Law wasn't lifted yet. I did listen. And I followed. But there was that creative, almost rebellious streak, that always wanted to break out. Today, as a parent, teacher, storyteller and librarian, I espouse creativity and creative thinking by encouraging my kids and students to ask “What if...?” and my reply is always, “Why not?” Then we move on to think of strategies to make things happen!

    The children who read my books have taught me...
    Humility. I need to listen more to them, hear their voices, and in my stories, show them that they can make choices. In author visits, I take value in the feedback I get from kids who read my books. When Big Sister made it to the top ten Kids Choice list of 2016, I felt I won a Palanca. Kids liked it! This motivates me to go on writing stories for children.

    I am learning more from my kids these days.
    From my son, I am learning how to sing better and to read notes on a music sheet. From my daughter, I am enhancing my listening skills and learning how to navigate the digital landscape competently. Parenting is never easy, but it has been a grace-filled endeavor for me and the hubby.

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    Didith is the author of Women of Science, Bookmark’s latest children’s series with 10 stories of real-life Filipina scientists meant to inspire young girls to enter into the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Mathematics (STEAM). She also wrote Made Perfect in Weakness, which won the 2016 Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) Kid's Choice Award. She is also a professor at the Department of Information Systems and Computer Science of the Ateneo de Manila University and mom to Socorro, 22. 

    My parents had a collection of Time Life books.
    As a child and even before I could read big words, I used to look at the pictures in these books again and again. It was from these books that I eventually learned about the planets, different types of animals, different countries. I grew up before there was cable TV and Internet, so these books were my only portal to these worlds.

    Something I vividly remember about my childhood that left a lasting impression…
    I was maybe 4 or 5 years old, and I didn't have the patience to wait for Christmas day. Each time a gift arrived, I'd immediately tear it open. I didn't have a single gift left on Christmas day! I called my grandfather and told him that no one gave me any gifts for Christmas. I don't know how he managed it, but he went shopping on Christmas day, bought me a bunch of stuff, then brought them to my house! My Nanny Meding and my youngest brother, Mike, also wrapped all sorts of things from the house including bottles of Royal Tru Orange, just so I would have something to open. Aside from teaching me NOT to open my gifts until Christmas, it also echoed to me that I was very much loved.

    As an author of children’s books, if I could tell parents one thing…
    Children should learn about freedom and responsibility. They should take risks, learn, explore, be brave but also be aware of the impact of these ventures on the people around them. I think some parents are afraid of saying no to their children, to impose limits or to discipline. As a result, parents become overindulgent, and their children walk all over them. I think parents must be firm. They should set rules. They should support their children and guide them, and that includes reminding children of where the boundaries are.


    The children who read my books have taught me...
    To always be open to surprise. As you get older, there's a tendency to get jaded. You feel like you've seen it all or you think you can predict any given situation's outcomes because you know so much. But then something happens that you didn't anticipate, didn't expect, and you're left in a state of wonder. This state is probably one of the best things about childhood. The world is always new.

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    Reni is the publisher and editor in chief of Tahanan Books that has produced over 150 titles and garnered more than 20 major book awards and citations in the last 25 years. She is also the author of Ay Naku! (2010), which won the 2nd National Children’s Book Award and recognized as one of the Best Reads of 2010-2011. Reni is also co-author of First Around the Globe (1998 and 2017), a beguiling story of how the first person to have traveled around the world could actually have been a Filipino.  


    One of the greatest lessons my parents taught me…
    Forgiveness. When I was 7 my father caught me stealing small peso bills and change from his dresser. I remember sitting on our staircase, bawling my eyes out, feeling humiliated for having been caught and ashamed of what I did. Instead of getting angry, my dad said oh so gently, “Just don’t do it again.” I had expected the wrath of a parent’s anger. Instead I got forgiveness. It was a lesson I never forgot. I never stole again.

    As a publisher and author of children’s books, if I could tell parents one thing…
    Be readers! If your children see you often between covers, getting “lost in a book,” they’ll want the same magical experience. Reading is contagious!

    The children who read my books have taught me that...
    If they love a book, they will read it again and again. And when there’s love at that magical bedtime hour, they will remember their mother’s voice reading to them, or their father’s giant hands as he turns the pages. They’ll remember how the book made them feel and the familial  world of love associated with it.

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