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Reading, Loud and Clear

Thanks to Prudence Foundation, children in the Philippines and Cambodia now have books in their own language.

Learning begins long before a child walks through the door of their first classroom. The most critical brain development happens in the first three years of life, laying the foundations for their future learning and impacting their future life chances.

But the absence of quality early education in the Philippines and Cambodia means children often lack the confidence and skills they need to succeed when the time comes for them to go to school.

We know that reading to and with children from the earliest age helps them gain the skills they will need for life.

However, if children and their families from the youngest age don’t have access to books in their own language learning to read becomes even harder.

Through First Read, Prudence Foundation and Save the Children have increased children’s access to books, increased the number of times children the amount they are read to, and increased parents and caregivers knowledge of why you should read to the youngest children including babies.

And for the first time in the Philippines, thanks to First Read, children have been able to read books in their mother tongue.


“Before, the only language used in the storybooks was either Tagalog or Filipino,” says Lito, a Parent Volunteer for our First Read programme.

“The children found it hard to understand what the story meant, and the quality was low.”

That’s why, as part of First Read, Save the Children works with local publishers to produce quality, age appropriate and context specific books for children and their parents in their own language, so it’s easier for them to learn. In the Philippines, First Read has contributed to a huge rise in the number of children’s books being published.

“I was able to write a story using our own language,” says Lito. “It is mainly about hygiene and how to maintain it. The books fit the needs of the family and community and the children were so happy because they understood the story.”


4-year-old Jenaica is just one of the children who Lito helps to learn to read. Despite living in one of the poorest parts of the Philippines, her parents Nomar* and Joy Mae* are determined things will be different for their children.

“We have promised ourselves that we will do whatever it takes for our children to have a better future, something we’ve never had,” says Nomar.

Jenaica loves coming to the First Read sessions with her father, Nomar, where she gets to play with the other children and learn new things. The impact has been startling.

“Before the sessions, my child was so timid and did not talk much,” says Nomar. “We received books and she has learned a lot from them, and she’s very talkative now.

“She would open the books she’d been given, every day, We see in her face that she is happy.”


Jenaica is one of around 157,000 children we’ve reached as part of the First Read programme in the Philippines and Cambodia.

It has helped parents own more quality books and changed parents’ perceptions that education should happen solely at school.

“I realised that doing good things for children has an impact on them as they grow up,” says Lito. “I might vanish from this world in the future, but the book that I have written will still remain.”

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