Start them young. Online shop offers fun language learning books

A Ba Ka Da… want to teach Filipino to your kids?  A young entrepreneur has opened an online bookstore that provides volumes of resources to help parents teach the young ones speak Filipino

The FilOz Children’s Bookstore was established in 2014.  It’s a fully online store that caters to Australian families who want to teach their child the Filipino language.   This business was borne out of the dreams of a young migrant mum who was then pregnant with her first child.

“I had the inspiration to build FilOz Children’s Bookstore while I was pregnant in 2013 with our first child. My husband and I wanted our child to be bilingual so I asked to family and friends to give us Tagalog books,” founder Jed Gerona told the AK.

“In early 2014 our first child was born. During her first few months, I read out loud the Tagalog story books whilst we also speak to her in Tagalog, just so she can familiarise herself with the tone and the accent,” she said.

“I thought that maybe there are also other Filipino parents in Australia who want to raise a bilingual child and are also looking for books. My main objective is to provide additional resources in teaching their child Tagalog through books and stories with Filipino values.”

FilOz Children’s Bookstore offers a variety of books ranging from basic board books for infants and toddlers, learning aids on Filipino culture, activity books, inspirational books, bilingual books and books on all-time favourite Filipino stories.

Jed comes from a Bicolano family but was born and raised in Quezon City.  A De La Salle University grad (computer science), she currently keeps a full-time job in Sydney CBD.

She has a passion for keeping alive the Filipino language and believes in the power of bilingualism.

“We can easily recognise that there is a decline of Tagalog speakers in the second generation. I met Filipinos who moved to Australia with their family either at an early age or they were born here. Most of them can “understand but can’t speak” and some of them wished their parents taught them Tagalog,” she said.

“Children can easily absorb languages, especially at very young age. So speaking Tagalog to the child even in infancy already has its benefits. We all should accept that English will always be the natural environment of the child and he or she will learn it easily.

“I think we should all make an effort to preserve the Filipino language and be informed of the benefits of bilingualism in the community. Australia embraces multiculturalism. Everyone in the community gets a better appreciation of different cultures.”

dad-and-kid-bookstoreOnly in its second year – her business as young as her toddler, the bookstore has been receiving positive feedback.

“I have met new Filipino migrants, Aussies with Filipino connection, teachers, daycare educators, etc. I love hearing about their stories on how they arrived in Australia and their determination to raise a bilingual child,” she said.

She has started to accommodate orders coming from New Zealand.

“Filipino parents who come across the online store are so happy that the bookstore is providing such great invaluable service. I’ve heard stories from parents that the books are now their child’s new favourite bedtime stories.”

The board books for children from 0 to 3 years are the most popular titles. These are books to help the child learn simple concepts and for them to learn Philippine nursery songs such as, among others: Ang Una Kong Alpabeto – about the Philippine alphabet; Kulay! – teaches them about colours; Masaya Ako – about expressions and feelings; Sampung Mga Daliri; Bahay Kubo.

Bilingual story books, those with English translation, are also popular amongst buyers.  The online bookstore recently added Cebuano and Ilocano books for parents who want to introduce their own dialect to their child.  They will also be adding more storybooks such as Mga Alamat stories “as these are the most requested ones from our customers,” Jed said.

“I founded FilOz Children’s Bookstore because I am passionate about teaching my child Tagalog. I want to encourage other parents that it is possible to raise a bilingual child in Australia.”

Teaching Tagalog: Mum’s tips

  1. Right from the start, have an objective in mind. Do you want your child to be a passive learner (understand but can’t speak), or be able to actively engage in a conversation in the Filipino language?
  2. Find other parents with the same objective of teaching their child Tagalog and organise a playtime or meetups. This way, the child will have friends who also speak Tagalog.
  3. Read and tell stories in Tagalog and encourage your child to participate. Ask questions in Tagalog, like “Ano kaya ang susunod na mangyayari?”
  4. Introduce and teach Philippine nursery songs. They have simple concepts and simple sentence construction that the child can easily absorb.
  5. Watch shows, movies that are age appropriate in Tagalog. YouTube is your friend.
  6. For older kids or teenagers, think about what your child is interested in. For example if your child is interested in cooking find a new recipe and prepare and cook it together using only Tagalog.
  7. Be firm in just speaking Tagalog at home. A child likes to tell stories, so if they tell a story in English, encourage them to tell the story again, but this time only in Tagalog. This increases their confidence in speaking Tagalog as well as an opportunity for them to expand their vocabulary.
  8. For those who have partners who speak another language, you can use a one-parent-one-language model. For example, the Pinay mum speaks only Tagalog to the child, while the Aussie dad speaks English to them.
  9. Don’t give up! Give your child a lot of encouragement and support to keep them motivated.
  10. Have fun with it!

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