Robin Fancy calls it the “idea that would not let me sleep.”
When the K–12 librarian at Lānaʻi High and Elementary School couldn’t find books for young Filipino children learning English as a second language, her University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa library studies professor challenged her to get a grant and create one herself.
The result is My Filipino Word Book, a richly illustrated primer in English, Tagalog and Ilokano. “The primary goal was to teach English numbers, colors, shapes and animals to Tagalog and Ilokano speakers,” explains Fancy. “In an area where 56 percent of the school population is Filipino and English is their second language, the project was a necessity.”
Fancy wrote the book with ESL teacher Vala Jean Welch and enlisted friend Ronny Lynn as illustrator. Imelda Gasmen, a Mānoa instructor of Filipino and Philippine literature, served as editor and Bess Press published the book.
Through grants and fundraising, more than 2,000 copies have been distributed throughout the islands, and Fancy hopes to see it expand to the U.S. mainland and the Philippines. Intended as a primer for preschool children covering basic Board of Education requirements, it has become an ESL tool for all ages and a trigger for family discussions about Filipino culture and values.
“Allowing children the opportunities to experience their own culture through books and education is a dream come true,” Fancy says. “Having an identity and taking pride in their culture helps them see who they really are and what they can be.”
If she can associate a rise in test scores to use of the primer, more grant money will become available. In the meantime, she relies on donations to keep donating books to preschools throughout the islands. For information, email Early Childhood Literacy Project at Coalition for a Drug-Free Lānaʻi.
Read more stories in The Urge to Do Good series:
- Intro: The Urge to Do Good
- Part 1: Students engineer solutions at home and abroad
- Part 2: Peace Corps part of UH experience
- Part 3: Student turns adversity into a medical mission
- Part 4: Library student finds the words to help
- Part 5: More ways UH is making a difference