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Ruby B.

Pineda 1
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Introduction

The objective of this study is to gather primary data through a survey on perceived issues
in Philippine children’s literature, and to use this as basis to form general conclusions about the
reading behavior and other information-assimilating activities of children in the Philippine
context.

Using the course module as its take-off point, this study focuses on four issues indicated
therein that, in view of their permeation of everyday life, have increasingly found expression in
contemporary children’s literature and have heightened public sensitivity in the reading and
treatment of more canonical literature for children. The first issue is on the subject of the
reconfiguration of the traditional concept of a Filipino family, referring to the nuclear family
which includes a father, a mother, and their offspring. Prevailing socio-economic issues of
poverty and unemployment have made labor export our government’s main economic coping
strategy, as it has institutionalized an annual one-million labor export target as a livelihood
policy, which roughly “corresponds to a proportional number of Filipino families with one or
both parents absent” (Round Table Discussion on Practical and Legal Remedies 16). This social
reality often manifests in broken families and children growing up with their extended families
(uncles, aunts, and/or grandparents), or worst yet, outright abandonment of families by OFW
parents, usually the fathers (17). In 2007, records from the Overseas Workers Welfare
Association (OWWA) – Cordillera indicate that three out of ten OFW breadwinners have cut off
communications from their families (GMA News TV website).

The issues of violence and sexuality, while not new, have been given a new breath by
mass media’s newer and more ubiquitous forms, the internet and mobile communications
technology (Commission on Population website). The Commission on Population affirms the
findings of the University of the Philippines-initiated Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality
Survey, as it concludes that mass media has become the de facto “new surrogate parents” of the
general Filipino youth population, functioning as “the main information guide on what is right
and what is wrong”, which, it deplores, is all too often reduced to what is cool and what is not
cool (Commission on Population website).

While great strides have been made in working for gender equality, its different forms
persist. Gender-stereotyping has yet to be taken by its roots in professional and labor sectors,
where cultural bias against women remains entrenched and, in turn, still sees more men in top-
level executive positions (Roman 4). In the advent of global labor migration, employment trends
recorded by the International Labour Office (ILO) have shown that women are more likely to
work in low-productivity jobs in agriculture and services, while men are given a bigger share in
industrial employment. There is also a persisting wage gap, where women are paid less than men
for the same job. (Global Employment Trends for Women 1-2)

To be sure, the said four issues in Philippine children’s literature are extensive and far-
reaching both in breadth and depth, the discussions above hardly making a scratch on their
surfaces. For this study, we will focus our efforts in the investigation of the following particular
questions:
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1) What are the most accessed sources of information by Filipino children?


2) What are the most influential issues confronting children in their information-
assimilating activities and lives in general?
3) Where does the responsibility of addressing these issues lie (e.g., in parents,
educators, mass media practitioners, children’s friends, and/or the youth themselves)?

Methodology

Survey respondents. The methodology used in the study is stratified random sampling in
which the lone qualifying characteristic for respondents is their being parents. This was done to
ensure that the views and conjectures that will be derived from the survey came from individuals
whose answers have been informed by their first-hand observations of and experience with their
own children’s reading practices and usage of other information sources.

With the parents being the primary survey respondents, it is important to emphasize that
the perspective represented here are of parents, as opposed to children themselves. While a study
on children readers’ views of their own reading materials and behavior is an equally worthwhile
and interesting endeavor in itself, the author has opted to limit respondents to parents in practical
consideration of accessibility since the conduct of the survey was mostly done in the office
setting where children are not available. This decision is also in recognition of the tendency of
parents having an increased degree of control in the selection of reading materials and other
information sources in the case of younger children. The literary materials and reading behavior
of children, in that sense, may then be more reflective of the views of the parents and not of the
children.

Survey questions. The survey is phrased in Filipino in anticipation of heterogeneity in


terms of respondents’ educational background. Age, sex, and occupation of respondents and the
number and ages of their children are requested from respondents to see whether such
demographics coincide with emergent response patterns, if there are any, in the survey, which
may then point to certain influences of demographic traits to their answers.

Initial questions seek to determine the range of information sources of the respondents’
children from what books they read to what forms of mass media they use (questions 2 and 3).
The succeeding questions (4 and 5) are designed to ascertain which one of the issues have the
most potential to affect or influence children and in effect, possibly bring more cause for parents’
concern and attention. The last two questions attempts to tease out points of inferences as to how
the parents view their responsibility, as well as other stakeholders’ (e.g., mass media, schools,
friends, and children themselves), in dealing with the said issues that come with the children’s
absorption of information from books and other information sources.

Results

Demographic data derived from the survey shows that parent-respondents were mostly
from the 30 to 40 years-old age bracket, making up approximately 70% of the total of
respondents (21 out of 30). It also reveals that more than half of the parent-respondents (19 out
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of 30) have more than one child, of which 30 children are aged below 13 and 29 are already in
their teens. Answers of the parent-respondents can then be said to be indicative of reading
behaviors of children from both ends of the age spectrum.

Printed information sources Number of respondents


Children’s books 22
Magazines 18
Newspapers 21
Others specified: encyclopedia (3), dictionary (2),
pocket books (3), coloring
books (1), textbooks used in
school (3)

Table 1. Printed information sources identified by the parent-respondents as


available and used by their children.

When asked of the range of printed information sources their children use and
have access to, the data above was summarized from the survey. The parents indicated
children’s books (22), magazines (18) and newspapers (21) as the most available and
accessed forms of print information sources. In some of the survey forms, parent-
respondents pointed out that pocket books appeal and are mostly accessed by girls in their
teens (3). Some parent-respondents also identified reference books, such as encyclopedias
(3) and dictionaries (2); textbooks (3); and coloring books (1) as other printed sources of
information accessed by their children.

Other forms of mass media Number of respondents


Television 25
Radio 5
Internet 14
Others specified: None

Table 2. Other forms of mass media identified by the parent-respondents as


available and used by their children.

The dominant form of mass media accessed by children is the television (25), followed
by the internet (14) and lastly, the radio (5). Cross-referenced to the findings about printed
information sources, it appears that more children, by a slight margin, watch television (25) than
those who read children’s books (22). In order of preference, majority of the children of the
parent-respondents can be said to use the television, print information materials, and the internet
in getting information.
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Issues in books Number of Issues in general Number of


respondents respondents
Family 2 Family reconfiguration 8
reconfiguration
Sexuality 11 Sexuality 13
Violence 23 Violence 21
Gender-stereotyping 6 Gender-stereotyping 1

Table 3. A juxtaposition of issues featured in books that can influence parent-


respondents to NOT allow them to be read by their children and issues in general
that are perceived by parent-respondents to be the most controversial and
troubling for our youth.

As illustrated in the table above, violence, both in books (23) and actual life (21), is
perceived as the most timely and troubling issue confronting our youth. Co-occurrence of high
marks in considering issues in books and issues in general suggests that parent-respondents may
see a continuity in books and real life issues. That is, their aversion to letting their children read
about violence in books may represent their desire to shield them from actual violence or
dissuade them to be involved in inflicting violence on others. The issue to be selected by the
second highest number of parent-respondents is sexuality. Similar to violence, the topic of
sexuality acquires high marks both in the context of books and everyday situations, which may
suggest hesitance on the part of the parent-respondents in introducing or discussing the concept
to their children.

While causative relationship between children’s reading and encounters of violence in


books and mass media and their acting them out in real life has yet to be scientifically and
unequivocally established, parent-respondents’ answers appear to be leaning towards the belief
in the existence of such a relationship. Due to perceived high frequency of possible encounters
with violence and sexuality in real life (as suggested by their selection of violence and sexuality
when asked of the most troubling issues in general), they show an aversion to allowing their
children to read about them, possibly in an effort to delay their involvement in such issue-related
situations.

On the other hand, the other two issues (i.e., reconfiguration of family and gender-
stereotyping) generally do not rank high in parent-respondents’ concerns. When book
representations are compared to real-life situations, an inverse proportional relationship may be
observed between them. Whereas some parent-respondents see family reconfiguration depicted
in books to be uncontroversial and permissible reading material (meaning, they will allow their
children to read stories that feature or mention it) (2), they view it as the most troubling issue
besetting our youth in actual life situations (8). In effect, reconfiguration of the traditional family
structure does not seem to alarm parents when depicted in books, but it does so (by a margin of
6) in real life. This discrepancy may point to the idea that it is not its existence and its depiction
in books that is troubling to parent-respondents (that is, they acknowledge the fact that it exists)
but the actual repercussions of reconfigured families (i.e., absentee parents, abandoned families,
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and broken families) in real life, that is, children losing the direct guidance and care of their
parents. Unlike in the issue of family reconfiguration, insulating children from gender-
stereotyping is found to be relevant by some parent-respondents in books (6) but not necessarily
so in actual contexts (1). This may suggest that gender-stereotyping does not occur frequently in
their children’s immediate environment or in all probability, that it is just harder to detect in
daily life.

Strategies used to address issues Number of


respondents
Both parents explain the concept through discussion 19
One parent explains using articles or TV shows 11
Others specified: None

Table 4. Strategies used by parent-respondents to address these issues.

When asked what they do to address the issues, parent-respondents showed a high
inclination to discussing and talking about them with their children (19), while some (11) use
articles, TV shows, and other forms of mass media as instruments in broaching such subject
matters with their children.

Stakeholder 1 2 3 4 5
Mass media 5 4 13 5 3
Parents 27 1 ---- 2 ----
School 14 3 8 ---- 5
Peers 3 5 9 ---- 13
Children 13 3 4 1 9

Table 5. Parent-respondents’ views on the responsibility of giving guidance to children.

The latter portion of the questionnaire sought to elicit the views of parent-respondents
regarding their roles and that of the relevant sectors of society in determining and guiding the
information-assimilating behaviors of children and their development as individuals in the long
run, the results of which is summarized in the table above. This was done by providing
statements to which parent-respondents will be asked to agree or disagree with in levels of
degree (i.e., a score of 1 to 5). The statements were phrased in a way where selection of 1
suggests that respondents accord high responsibility to the stakeholder, 5 low responsibility, and
3 when they are uncertain. The middle value of 2 indicates that respondents lean towards the
belief of high-responsibility, while 4 indicates that they lean towards the belief of low-
responsibility for the stakeholder in question.

While the statements were intended to thresh out views of the parent-respondents
regarding respective stakeholders’ responsibility in shaping the reading and information-
assimilating behaviors of their children, it is recognized that statements are subject to
interpretations of the parents. Given this, the statements may be interpreted and framed within
the notion of influence, to which the concept of responsibility is unavoidably entwined. The
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statements may then be taken as attribution of responsibility and/or claim of influence for
indicated stakeholders, and can be read as either “the stakeholder (e.g., mass media) is highly
responsible for the reading and information-assimilating activities of my children” and/or “the
stakeholder heavily influences the reading and information-assimilating activities of my
children”.

Majority of the parent-respondents (13 out of 30) are ambivalent with regard to the role
of mass media and cannot say whether the Philippine mass media has given adequate attention
and appropriately represented the dimensions of these issues in their work. At the opposite
extremes, 9 respondents expressed their approval of mass media’s work and representation of the
issues, while 8 found them inadequate and wanting. What could account for the ambivalence is
the fact that mass media is a broad and dynamic information source, where one is given the
leeway to choose from a variety of forms as well as content. For parents, as is for any individual,
it is perhaps just a matter of selecting which form and what content they will allow and give their
children exposure to.

Of the 30 respondents, 27 acknowledged the importance of their own role as parents in


influencing their children’s reading and other information-assimilating behaviors. One
respondent selected a score of 2, leaning towards high-responsibility, while the remaining two
selected a score of 4, leaning towards low-responsibility. It is to be noted, however, that the
manifestation of parents’ responsibility as phrased in the questionnaire’s statement is that of a
“filter,” in which parents should know and screen what reading and mass media materials their
children are using. Other possible manifestations of parents’ responsibility affecting their
children’s reading and information-assimilating habits, which were not indicated in the
questionnaire, are their direct and special position to shape their children’s views of the issues
through their explanations and sharing of their own related experiences.

Meanwhile, 17 of the respondents agreed (while only 5 disagreed) that schools play an
important role in assisting children in understanding the issues and influencing their views about
them. In considering children’s peers as one of the stakeholders, a total of 8 respondents
indicated a leaning towards recognizing children’s peers as having high responsibility in shaping
their children’s information-assimilating behaviors. On the other hand, 13 strongly disagreed.
This disagreement may signify that parent-respondents do not think that their children’s peers
have high influence on them. Another possible interpretation, one that touches on the idea of
responsibility, is that parents do not think that their children’s peers should be relied upon by
their children as a source of information about such issues.

Curiously, 16 parent-respondents agreed (while 10 disagreed) that children can be trusted


to have the capacity to understand these issues at their own pace and in their own way. This
suggests that parent-respondents recognize that children themselves have a degree of control in
their reading and information-assimilating behaviors, whether it be in choosing what TV shows
to watch, book to read, or webpage to browse. At first glance, this may appear contradictory to
the unanimous consensus among the parent-respondents about the high responsibility of parents
in determining the reading and information-assimilating behaviors of their children. However,
when considered in concert with the high-responsibility marks for parents and schools, the
recorded high-responsibility mark for children (i.e., recognition that children are responsible for
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their own reading and information-assimilating habits) may be explained in terms of the idea of
“informed choices”, where parents share with their children information and experiences that
will enable them to discern and analyze options for themselves, and hopefully lead them to
choose what would be best for them to read, watch, or learn. In such a context, parents may see
their role, including the schools’, primarily as input providers, and only as participant decision
makers, having a supportive - not a determining - function to their children’s own proclivities
and interests.

Conclusions

The study set out to investigate three primary concerns:

1) What are the most accessed sources of information by Filipino children?


2) What are the most influential issues confronting children in their information-
assimilating activities and lives in general?
3) Where does the responsibility of addressing these issues lie (e.g., in parents,
educators, mass media practitioners, children’s friends, and/or the youth themselves)?

The results, as tabulated and expounded on under the Results section, lead the author to
conclude that television, print information sources (which include children’s books) and the
internet are the most used and available sources of information for children.

With regard to the issues in children’s literature, related information-assimilating


activities, and youth life in general, violence and sexuality emerged as the most timely and
alarming for parents. The said topics being consistently selected in consideration of children’s
literature, mass media, and real life situations may suggest that parents see a continuity and
perhaps, an osmotic relationship between what is depicted in information materials and what is
experienced in actual situations. That is, they may be of the belief that children exposed to
violence and sexuality in books or mass media may be more likely to get involved in violence
and sexual encounters in real life. Parents’ inclination to disallow their children from reading
about these issues may signify their desire to delay their children’s introduction to these ideas
and their involvement in such situations.

As to what possible factors affect the reading and information-assimilating behaviors of


children, parents’ consolidated answers indicate that they believe parents, schools, and the
children themselves are the primary determinants of such behaviors. Survey data suggests that
parents are ambivalent regarding the role of mass media in children’s process of understanding
these issues, some finding it both a negative and positive source of information for their children.
It also suggests that parents do not regard their children’s peers as influential and/or responsible
in molding the reading and information-assimilating behaviors of their children.

Recommendations

In consideration of the aforementioned conclusions, it is recommended that stakeholders,


in a conscious intent and effort to positively impact reading and learning habits of Filipino
children, should, in their own capacities and sphere of influence, invest in quality work in
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television, creation of print information sources, and the internet as these are the most used and
available sources of information for children. Mainstream mass media practitioners, as well as
writers, illustrators, photographers with their own choice of communication tools, should
carefully deliberate the depictions of violence and sexuality in their work and must create a
balance between rational realism and indulgent sensationalism. Teachers should engage children
in activities that involve the use of multi-media, which may include, but is not limited to,
preferred forms such as television programs, print information sources, and the internet.

As attested to by the survey, parents have a self-affirmed role in guiding their children
and contributing to their reading and learning habits. While serving as a filter to screen what may
be perceived as “too violent” or “too sexual” is one of the ways parents can positively affect
children’s reading and learning behaviors (if done within reason, since sheltering them from facts
of life may backfire), sharing information and experiences are a more engaging alternative.
Parents’ knowledge and experiences are great sources of information through which their
children may vicariously learn and from which they could acquire ideas that would enable them
to analyze options (whether in choosing books or TV shows) and decide for themselves. An
important learning that parents should internalize is that children (increasingly so as they age)
will make their own decisions. However, while children will ultimately be the ones to decide, it
is within the power and responsibility of the parents and other stakeholders to sharpen their
discernment skills which will let them make informed ones.
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References

A Round Table Discussion on Practical and Legal Remedies to Address the Needs of Families
Abandoned by Overseas Filipino Workers. 4th Dr. Alfredo J. Ganapin Advocacy Series 2006.
Center for Migrant Advocacy.

http://www.gmanews.tv/print/66767. GMA News TV Website. Accessed on July 20, 2009

“The Media are Playing a Bigger Role in Young Lives.”


http://www.popcom.gov.ph/sppr/sppr02/press_kits.html#kit04. The Commission on Population.
Accessed on July 20, 2009

“Global Employment Trends for Women: A Brief 2007.” http://. International Labour Office.
Accessed on July 22, 2009

Roman, Emerlinda. “Some Thoughts on a Woman’s Role in Nation-building.” http://. Remarks


during the Opening of Exhibit on 1st Women in Philippine Government CEDAW NG BAYAN:
Karapatan at Kababaihan, Civil Service Commission Building, March 20, 2006. Accessed on
July 22, 2009
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Appendix

I. Blank survey questionnaire

Pananaliksik tungkol sa mga isyu ng panitikang pambata

Ako si Ruby B. Pineda, isang estudyanteng kumukuha ng MA sa Development Communication


sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. Humihingi po ako ng ilang minuto ng inyong oras para sagutin ang
mga sumusunod na katanungan. Ang mga tanong na ito’y para sa isang pananaliksik tungkol sa
mga isyu ng panitikang pambata sa ating bansa. Ang inyong tapat na pagsagot ay lubhang
makatutulong sa pagsusuri kung anong mga isyu ang kasalukuyang kinakaharap ng ating mga
magulang at kabataan ukol sa pagbabasa (at ibang kaugnay na aktibidad), at kung paano na rin
makahahanap ng mga posibleng kalutasan sa mga ito.

Edad: ______
Kasarian: ___________
Hanapbuhay: ____________

1. Ilan at ilang taon na ang inyong mga anak? __________________________

2. Anong uri ng mga babasahin ang mayroon sa inyong bahay na nababasa ng inyong anak?
a. librong natatanging ginawa para sa mga bata (children’s books)
b. magasin
c. dyaryo
d. maaaring tukuyin kung wala sa listahan: ____________________________________

3. Anong porma ng mass media ang pangunahing pinagkukuhanan ng impormasyon ng inyong


anak?
a. TV
b. radyo
c. internet
d. maaring tukuyin kung wala sa listahan: _____________________________________

4. Aling libro ang HINDI ninyo ipababasa sa kanya? Isa kung saan ang tauhan/mga tauhan sa
kwento ay:
a. galing sa isang pamilyang walang ama o ina
b. ipinapakilala, dala ng mga pangyayari sa kwento, sa ideya ng sekswalidad
c. gumagamit o ginagamitan ng karahasan
d. dumaranas ng diskriminasyon o pagtatangi dahil sa kanyang kasarian

5. Aling isyu ang pinaka-kontrobersyal at pinaka-matinding kinahaharap ng ating mga kabataan?


a. karahasan
b. diskriminasyon dahil sa kasarian
c. pag-iiba ng konsepto ng pamilya (walang ama, walang ina)
d. sekswalidad
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6. Mayroong bang pagkakataon na naitanong o natalakay ninyo sa inyong anak ang kahit ano sa
4 na isyu na nabanggit? Kung oo, paano ninyo ito ipinaintindi sa kanya?

a. ipinaliwanag ng parehong magulang ang konsepto (pag-uusap lamang)


b. ipinaliwanag ng isa sa mga magulang gamit ang isang artikulo o palabas
c. maaring tukuyin kung wala sa listahan: ______________________________________

7. Sumasang-ayon ba kayo sa sumusunod na mga pangungusap? Bilugan ang 1 kung lubos


kayong sumasang-ayon, 3 kung hindi ninyo masabi kung totoo o hindi ang naturan, at 5 kung
lubos kayong HINDI sumasang-ayon.

a. Sapat na pansin at tamang pagrerepresenta ang naibibigay ng mass media sa mga


isyung ito.

1 2 3 4 5

b. Kailangang nalalaman ng mga magulang ang mga babasahin at panoorin ng kanilang


mga anak para mabigyan nila ng paliwanag ang mga ito.

1 2 3 4 5

c. Dapat na tinatalakay muna ang mga isyung nabanggit sa mga eskwelahan.

1 2 3 4 5

d. Nalalaman at nararanasan ng mga anak ko ang mga isyung ito kasama ng kanilang
mga kaibigan.

1 2 3 4 5

e. Nagpapalakas ng loob at karakter ng mga kabataan kung bibigyan sila ng tiwala na


kaya nilang unawain ang mga isyung ito sa kanilang sariling paraan at panahon.

1 2 3 4 5
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II. Filled-out (and scanned) survey questionnaire


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Reflection

What I found interesting from the answers I collected from the respondents is that the
parents put great emphasis on the influence and responsibility of parents AND children in
establishing their reading and information-assimilating habits. One thing that surprised me is the
apparent underestimation of peer influence by parent-respondents. Schools are important in that
children spent most of their time there. But who do they spend it with? Their friends, of course.
So if parents think that schools and teachers have great influence and responsibility in molding
their children’s reading habits and indeed, their personality and character, I would think that they
would also see how their peers may have the same, if not more, influence on them. Or perhaps
they do recognize that peer influence is a force to reckon with but they are arguing that it
shouldn’t be the case.

The difficulty that I had to struggle with for this task has more to do with information-
gathering than any other aspect of the research. Anticipating a diverse set of respondents, I chose
to write my questionnaire in Filipino, which has the effect of it being longer (longer and more
words to make a sentence. I had to really be economical in my phrasing of the survey and in the
number of my questions lest I bore my respondents or use up more time than they are willing to
spend in answering my survey. In the effort to be brief, there were some questions that I was not
able to include. I realize that I should have given the survey design more thought; I had questions
that delved into what their views are but I did not provide questions ascertaining why their views
were that way. In retrospect, such questions would have made for a more interesting analysis.