Building Life Skills and Finding Comfort: Teacher Mavic Basilia-Yee Shares Tips on Quarantine Reading and Child Rearing

by KB Meniado

Happy Women’s Month! In celebration, we are featuring some of the women readers in our community. In this interview, get to know Mavic Basilia-Yee, a full-time mom to twin toddlers, Kalaio and Rojo, based in Leyte with her husband and in-laws. Also a part-time Special Education Teacher and a freelance module editor, here she shares her experiences in encouraging her own children in hitting that balance between learning and playing.

Hi, Mavs! Thanks for being here. What an opportunity to be talking to you about reading, teaching, and child rearing, and everything in between. My first question, and yes, this is it right away: How does reading empower you?

I struggled with reading as a child, and that’s why unlike so many readers, I didn’t have memories of ever being excited about book fairs. It was only in college when I picked up reading. Every week, I would borrow at least one fiction book from the main library. I also started buying secondhand books when I got a part-time job at a tutorial center in Katipunan. 

I remember the first book I bought with my own money was an annotated copy of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in The Rye. The flimsy, tanned pages, and intoxicating smell of a secondhand book, as well as just being in the head of Holden Caulfield, opened my eyes to the beautiful world of reading.

Since then, books have become a marker of significant changes in my life. I looked for parenting books the moment I recovered from the shock that I was going to become a twin mom. Sleep deprivation was a major challenge when the twins were born, so we followed the advice that we learned from Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block and swaddled the twins as if they were baby burritos. Last year, during quarantine, my husband and I decided to buy an oven so we could both learn how to bake. Shirley Corriher’s BakeWise was my reference as I tried to figure out how to bake chocolate chip cookies. 

The 38 books bought over the past two months, most of which are preloved copies from online bookshops

Recently, I’ve been going in and out of the Galaxy Commons, which is the incredible world built by Becky Chambers in her Wayfarers Series. Reading this particular book series has allowed me to mentally inhabit a kinder world than the one we’re living in.

All these said, reading has empowered me in many ways. Through books, I gain knowledge and pick up life skills, and find comfort, especially when it comes to parenting in the middle of this pandemic. I also feel less alone when I read. 

This is way long overdue but it’s worth repeating: Congratulations on the twins! Parenting is such a challenging responsibility but I’m sure it’s always gratifying. In terms of teaching your children, how do you interact with each of them? Do you encourage them to pick up the reading habit as well, maybe have some reading time?

My twin sons have different personalities. As much as I want to buy every children’s book I didn’t get to read when I was a child, I always have to honor their preferences when it comes to the books they like to read or the activities they want to try. 

Still, we try to cultivate reading among our kids by providing the environment where they can learn and explore. For instance, we make sure there are always picture books around the house that are just within their reach. I also try to expose them to printed words, and that’s why I label some of the things at home. Before having them, I almost exclusively read e-books because I used to move houses quite a lot, but lately, I’ve been buying paperback copies of books because I want them to see me reading, and hopefully, that sets a good example for them.

I think it is true that children motivate their parents to become better human beings. I noticed I’ve become more reflective since I became a mother. I also aspire to be more intentional with how I live my life because I know that there are children around me who tend to pick up even the most seemingly inconsequential words or habits.  

The children, as they say, are always listening and watching! So it’s important that parents try to model the best practices and attitude. Now you mentioned you are also an educator. How do you handle the intersection between your roles and your individual pursuits?

Reading time with Rojo, who was two years old here

Right now, my personal and professional lives are perfectly aligned. While my teaching practice is enriched by my experiences as a mother, being a trained Special Education practitioner has been helpful in how I educate my children during these times that preschools are closed. Even when my twins are at home, we look for opportunities for them to learn and explore through play.

Reading has helped me continuously improve as an educator and as a mother. I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction books related to education and those related to language and literacy. One of my most recent reads is Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. It is quite an instructive book with plenty of tips and exercises for parents and teachers to try so they can communicate better with children.

“Perfectly aligned”… how we love that for you! Time management skills seem to be put to much practice for you. How do you manage to squeeze in reading, and what do you think are your strong and not-so-strong points when it comes to establishing your routine?

I think reading is just like any other hobbies that you have to make time for. Reading at least one chapter every night while putting the kids to sleep is what works for me. Also, I always bring one book wherever I go so that I can squeeze in reading while waiting in line at the grocery, for example.

I am not sure about my strong and not-so-strong points. Haha! Let’s just say when it comes to reading, I have a type-A personality. I plan the books that I will read for the whole year in January, and I try my best to stick to the plan. Although I have to say that, recently, I’ve been compulsively buying newer titles—I think I purchased 38 in just two months! I recognize it’s not healthy, and that it is probably one of my coping mechanisms as we continue to go through lockdown and quarantine.

Don’t think there’s a thing such as reading overdose, so you do you! Given all these insights and experiences, what else do you strongly advocate for that you think should be explored more in books and stories? 

Not specific to books and stories, but I strongly advocate for the government to build public libraries and parks—basically spaces that allow people to think and move around freely!

I also wish there were more stories out there that explore all possible feelings related to parenthood. I sometimes get a sense that people edit out the ugly and joyless parts when they write about their experiences. On a bad day when my twins and I are screaming or crying out of frustration, I find reading stories or essays about how naturally exhausting parenting is deeply comforting.

What are you reading at the moment and why do you think other readers should pick this up?

I am reading two books at the moment. The first one is A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers which is the second book in the Wayfarers series.  The other one is The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair. I’ve been recommending the Wayfarers series A LOT because the universe that Chambers created is just beautiful and kind. Their society is far from perfect, but the people there reflect a lot, so they are more  self-aware, more accepting, more forgiving.  I just imagine it would be nicer to raise children in that kind of society. I think it’s the perfect escape book during these times. ☁️

All photos by and posted with permission from Mavic Basilia-Yee.







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