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How Required Reading Upskills Employees

Over 300 and counting—that’s how many books Panahon TV employees have read since Executive Producer Donna May Lina launched the book report program in 2016. The rules are simple: read at least a 100-page book a month and write a review about it. Both the book and book report may be written in Tagalog or English, and the best book report gets a cash prize.

The exercise feels like a throwback to the employees’ high school days, but Lina believes that the skills learned from it remain relevant in the workplace. “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 Lina admits that the ultimate goal of the book report program is to develop a love for reading among her employees. “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. Access is easier now with the e-books—or you can simply borrow books from friends and neighbors.”


Books read by Panahon TV employees are documented and filed.


Learning from Reading

Because of the requirement, non-reading employees were forced to pick up books—something they didn’t previously perceive as a leisure activity. Eventually, some of them acquired the reading habit, which not only honed work skills but also helped in coping with anxiety especially during the pandemic. It also gave them opportunities for self-improvement, particularly among employees who don’t normally write and converse in English. Though they are given the option to write their book reviews in Filipino, some still choose to write theirs in English to develop skills. Panahon TV’s head writer, who receives the book reviews, takes the time to critique each entry and encourage future submissions.

To gather their thoughts on reading, we chatted with some of the team’s regular readers.


Jun Bert Fabale


Position: Website Administrator and Tricaster Operator

How have you benefited from your reading habit? Reading helps me gain new knowledge and sharpen my grammar. It’s also a good stress reliever because it keeps my focus on the book I’m reading. For a moment, I get to take a break from my personal problems. 


Cris del Rosario


Position: Motion Graphic Artist

How have you benefited from your reading habit? Aside from widening my knowledge, reading has helped improve my writing skills, which I consider one of my greatest weaknesses, along with verbally communicating with others. Now, I’m slowly gaining confidence in these areas. 


Marmick Julian


Positions: Cameraman and Audioman

How have you benefited from your reading habit? I used to find myself more likely to finish a book report at the last minute, but lately, I’ve been trying to submit ahead of time. I want to continue improving my reading comprehension skills. This exercise lets me take a break from social media, which sometimes shows violent content that adds to my stress. 


Charie Abarca


Position: Social Media Producer

How have you benefited from your reading habit? From the very start, I’ve always associated reading with escape. Besides the fact that reading expands my vocabulary and helps with my writing, I am thrilled that I get to do what I love and what I am required to at the same time. I have no more excuses not to read!


Justina Yang


Position: Intern and a Broadcasting Communication student at UP Diliman

How have you benefited from your reading habit? Regular reading helps me expand my vocabulary and helps me learn new things. But more than that, reading lets me experience different worlds that I may never experience in real life. Every time I open a book, I start a new adventure with the characters. Every turn of the page is exciting because I dive deeper into the world that the book offers. This way, reading helps me forget about the current world that I live in. It’s like a temporary escape from reality, which helps me relieve stress. 


Friendly Competition

The head writer used to solely determine the book report winner, but now, the previous month’s winner picks the best book review from three anonymous finalists chosen by the head writer. During the program’s weekly meeting, the previous winner presents his or her opinions about the top 3 submissions, and announces the winner. The head writer then reveals who submitted the winning entry. Lina agrees that this is a better scheme since it has “upped the ante for critical thinking” while training employees in public speaking.

Jun, who has twice succeeded in getting the top prize, talks about the exhilaration of winning. “It was a good feeling because the other book reports were also good.” Charie, who has won 3 times, shares how she writes her book reports. “There’s no magic in winning the book report of the month; I just make sure that whatever I’m submitting is close to my heart. For me, a good book scars or changes me, and successfully relays its message.” For Justina, winning was a form of validation. “The fact that my book report was chosen as a finalist, and eventually the winner meant that someone appreciated what I’ve written, and that made me feel happy.”

When asked about how they felt about choosing a winner, Jun says, “I was shocked because I didn’t know how to distinguish a book report especially if it’s written in English. But I chose the winner based on how well the submitter followed the format, and how the report effectively summarized the book.” Justina confessed that she, too, had a hard time picking a winner. “All the book reports given to me were well-written. There were even instances when I doubted my choice because the other reports were equally good.” In the end, she based her final choice on how she felt while reading the report, and the submitter’s writing style. Charie, who judged the book report finalists last month says she likes the idea of giving employees the chance to speak and choose the winner. “We get to see how someone critiques a work of art with depth. I believe that everyone have what it takes to be a winner,” she says.

Cris and Marmick speak highly of the winners. “ I admire them because they were able to clearly communicate their thoughts and feelings about the books they read. Reading their book reports is like reading the books they reviewed.” Marmick agrees. “I think good reports come from being passionate about reading. The winners effectively conveyed their opinions about the books they read.” For Lina, the reward comes when employees are “able to synthesize the put into context and application the books read. With so much ‘noise’ around, curling up with a good book is a good exercise for thinking and reflection.”


Charie’s multicolored notes in her most recent read, which was 720 pages long.


Here are the top 8 books read by the interviewees in no particular order: 

  1. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Live by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
  2. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
  3. Sombi by Jonas Sunico
  4. All Grown up by Jami Attenberg
  5. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  6. Kapitan Sino by Bob Ong
  7. The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpugo
  8. Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab