Multilingual Storyteller Christina Newhard tells Stories for Philippine Children

October 27, 2016

As a father of three children, one of my favorite things to do for my kids, is read books to them before they go to sleep. I have a five year old boy, daughters who are eight and eleven. They get to see me animated when I read to them. My voice changes for each character in the book. My face and arms act to the scenes to bring pictures to life. Needless to say, I can entertain, simply by reading a book to them.

Books can have a significant cultural importance as well. Having been born and raised from the Philippines, I am saddened to say, I do not have any children books to share with my kids regarding our culture and heritage. I am glad to find out that, this is all about to change. Thanks to Christina Newhard of Sari-Sari Storybooks, who is down to the wire on raising her first Kickstarter campaign (November 1st deadline). 

She not only wants to share Filipino culture through modern children's books in a positive way, but she also wants to translate them in various native languages. You see, the Philippines has over 180 different dialects and most books are written in just a handful of the top ones. Christina wants to change that and preserve these dying languages. 

Well, that can be quite a challenge. I interviewed Christina today, and here are some of the questions and answers we would like to share with you on how you can help her make this wonderful venture happen.



Who is Christina Newhard?
I'm a Filipina-American graphic designer, based in Brooklyn. I was born in and spent my childhood in Manila, and then lived in Florida through college before moving to New York. I've been working in the design industry for 20 years, a good chunk of that time as Senior Designer at Columbia Creative (Columbia University's in-house design and communications office), and now run my own design consultancy, Newhard Design LLC.

Melo - the Umang-Boy an Ivatan Tale

How did this desire to tell stories from the Philippines get started?
I wanted to use my skillset to do something positive for the Philippines, to push back against the devaluing of Filipino culture that makes us invisible in the world. Being a designer, being familiar with printing, and thinking about how best to effect social change ... making children's books was the idea that stuck with me. Given that the Philippine publishing industry is robust and already produces a lot of beautiful children's books, that led me to make this series more niche, and to create stories in languages other than Tagalog and English.

What are some of the challenges did you have to face to get here today, and forsee in the near future?
I think the usual things project creators deal with: a whole lot of anxiety and doubt. Figuring out funding is always a hurdle. This Kickstarter is really helping boost the project past those initial challenges.

Future challenges will include figuring out how to distribute and market these stories in a sustained and organized way over time, how to get them into public libraries, etc. Problem-solving is a basic part of the design process, and I feel very strongly about seeing this project through to sustainability.

Why do you think this is project is important?
Cultural self-esteem is the root for social change. What sort of message does it send to children when they never see their language in a story they grow up reading? Or for children here in the States, to never see a hero in a book that looks like them? Do they feel empowered when they grow up?

Why is it important for a people to know these stories?
Cultural self-esteem matters, but children's stories are especially beautiful and fun to make. That's important in itself— creating beautiful stories that make children think.

Gamay - Vegetarian Manananggal

As a fan of movies, I feel like all the stories have been told, do you think our stories can tell a new story that's never been heard before?
Definitely! The world needs a story about a vegetarian manananggal, no?

What is your biggest BHAG for this project? Where do you see this going in the next year, the next five years?
The next year will be devoted to launching the project, as a whole. That means publishing the first 3 books (Ivatan, Cebuano, Chavacano), marketing them, holding book events, submitting them to reviewers, and connecting with librarians, teachers, and community partners to bring these stories into children's lives.

In the next five years, there are books 4, 5, and 6 to be illustrated, printed, and published as well (the Waray, Meranaw, and Aeta stories). I suspect the project will further evolve at it's own pace, but we'll see what happens.

Tell us a story, an example if you will, of what Filipino children and parents can discover and expect from this.
Just knowing that the Philippines is one of the world's most language-diverse countries, home to 181+ languages, already shifts how people see the Philippines. Most people are very surprised to know this.

‍Melo - the Umang-Boy an Ivatan Tale


Tell us about the campaign, that we don't know or you haven't shared just yet. How can we help?
Donating to the Kickstarter before November 1 is of course the most direct way to help.  If you are someone who can support at the Angel Donor level, that would mean more books donated to libraries in the Philippines (we currently have 750 books earmarked for our Philippine partners, I'd like to make it 1,000 books, if one more Angel Donor steps forward).

If you are a teacher or librarian, or if you'd want to be a book advocate when these are published, please reach out to me ( A network of supporters that can help get these books into libraries and schools, and would want to read them at a local story hour or family time event ... that would be invaluable in the future.

‍Melo - the Umang-Boy an Ivatan Tale
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Cesar Abueg
Jack of all trades, lover of all things design. As he dabbles with the creative power of online technology in the clouds, he yearns to jump right down to earth to join the masses and experience life.

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