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Book Smart

For four years now, my duties as head writer for Panahon TV includes checking the team’s individual book reports—a monthly requirement Executive Producer Donna Lina cooked up to upskill employees. “As we are a content creation group, there’s a need to ensure we have a steady supply of ideas,” she shares. “One of the best ways of sharpening our comprehension and critical skills is through reading.”

But aside from reading’s popular benefits, such as enriching vocabulary, and improving focus and analytical skills, studies show that it also sharpens memory. A 2013 study by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago revealed that engaging regularly in mentally-stimulating activities, such as reading, keeps dementia at bay. But another study published in the Social Science & Medicine journal in 2016 revealed an even more astonishing discovery—by observing the reading patterns of almost 4,000 people who were 50 years old and above, book readers were found to live almost two years longer than non-readers.

What accounts for this supposed longevity among bookworms? Perhaps the answer lies in even more studies that show how reading helps manage stress and depression.

PM Caisip, live producer and video editor


Hollie Delles, administrative assistant


Trisha Garin, oncam reporter and segment producer


Each month, employees are required to submit a book report of one or two pages on a book they’ve recently read. Books, including graphic novels, have to be at least 100 pages, and can be in Filipino or English. Those who fail to submit are penalized, while I pick the best book report—the author of which receives a cash prize.

But beyond the reward-and-sanction scheme, Lina wants her employees to read because they enjoy it. “If you get to love reading and enjoy it, the possibilities are limitless.  It can take you to places you have never imagined, and helps you understand the world better.” She adds, “From a skills standpoint, you can learn without having to spend so much. Access is easier now with the e-books—or you can simply borrow books from friends and neighbors.”

PM Caisip, who’s never missed a submission in four years, shares how he’s always loved reading—but only books in Filipino. “At first, it was a challenge for me to read books written in English, and then write a report about them.” But through practice, PM has gained more confidence. “When I read, it’s like I’m watching a movie, which is one of my favorite things to do. I learn a lot, especially if the book deals with a character or culture I’m not familiar with.”

Hollie Deles, who also regularly submits, shares how reading is a passion that stems from her childhood. “When I was a child, I loved visiting our school library and reading. Books challenge my perspective in life. When I read a story that has an unsatisfactory ending, I imagine my own ending.” 

But Trisha Garin’s story is different. She admits that at first, reading was a chore. “I didn’t regularly participate in our monthly book reports because it was hard for me to finish a book, especially when I didn’t like the character or where the story was going.” But her recent win in the exercise made her realize that her problem didn’t lay in reading itself, but in the books she read. “Before, I sent an entry about a fiction book that I read, and I wasn’t happy with my writing. Then my boyfriend introduced me to a non-fiction book entitled “The Miracle Morning”, which encouraged me to keep a gratitude journal. It helped clear my mind, and more importantly, it made me want to read more books that will help me mentally and spiritually. After that, I didn’t have to pressure myself anymore to submit book reports. I now read because it keeps my soul alive. For people who experience anxiety, reading is a big help.”


Reading and loving it

Years of reading the team’s book reports have allowed me to observe how the regular submitters’ written skills have evolved and vastly improved. Their sentences are more masterfully crafted with a wider vocabulary. In choosing a winner, I keep in mind that a good book report displays good grammar. But sometimes, I allow technical skills to take a backseat to passionate writing.

Hollie’s winning book report was on The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo


It is such passion that fuels Hollie to submit month after month. “It’s not about winning the cash prize; reading is a reward in itself. It relaxes me, and teaches me life lessons. When I encounter an unfamiliar word or phrase while reading, I immediately ‘Google’ it.”

Trisha’s current read


For Trisha, reading helps her to comprehend and condense news articles—a key part of her job as a reporter. “It also helps me to be more fluent in conversation—and most importantly, reading lifts my mood.” 

One of PM’s winning book reports was on The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

PM sees reading as an essential part of his life. “When you’ve done it for a long time, it’s in your system. Reading for me is like my daily intake of vitamin C.” 


Practical application

Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, Lina believes the reading is more relevant than ever. “There’s so much literature out there.  If you don’t have reading skills, you miss out on finding solutions to problems.”

PM agrees. “Because of reading, I’ve become more aware of situations around me. It improves my focus, creativity and research skills.” Hollie shares that reading has improved her life perspective. This is also what Trisha has learned from her favorite non-fiction books. “We need to be able to accept life as it is, and to live it to the fullest.

It has often been said that when a chapter closes, a new one begins. Whatever chapter they’re in, Lina hopes that all her team members learn the long-term value of reading. “I hope they appreciate the amount of effort that goes into encouraging people to read and eventually savoring it.” She ends, “I’ve always believed that you need to read to save your life.”


Donna Lina’s Top Ten Books 

  1. The old Archie Comics
  2. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
  3. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  4. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  5. Noli Me Tangere by  Jose Rizal 
  6. El Filibusterismo by Jose Rizal
  7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  8. The Bible
  9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  10. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell