During the mid-1970s, the Nutrition Center of the Philippines (NCP) found itself in need of a series of storybooks to supplement their mental feeding program. They approached Virgilio S. Almario, a well-known poet and literary critic of that time, to spearhead the production of this series. He then recruited authors, editors, illustrators, and researchers for the series, which he would call Aklat Adarna. (The Adarna bird is a fictional creature which had the ability to cure any sickness with its song.) The name was chosen to evoke the healing power of education and knowledge against the struggle of the Filipino against poverty-causing ignorance.
When NCP concluded the storybook program, Almario carried on with the project through the Children's Communication Center. Soon enough, with its increasing number of publications, CCC needed a distributor and publisher and a decision was made to found Adarna Book Services, later renamed to Adarna House, Inc.
For many years, Adarna House's preschool line was limited to a collection of 5 posters for preschool teachers and day care workers. In 2007, they released the Ready for School series — a set of 10 flip books (one side with Filipino text, the other with English) discussing preschool concepts like colors, shapes, emotions, and directions.
Through a partnership with Reach Out and Read Philippines, Adarna House published the very first English-Filipino board books in the country.
It was 1977 when 8 pocket-sized and landscape-format storybooks were published under the Aklat Adarna Series. The titles included Istorya ni Dodong (The Story of Dodong) in two parts, Si Pilar Katerpilar (Pilar the Catterpillar), Ang Pag-ibig ni Mariang Makiling (The Love of Mariang Makiling), Digong Dilaw (Yellow Digo), Munting Patak-Ulan 'Little Raindrop), Nang Magkakulay ang Nayon (When Color Came to Town), and Si Emang Engkantada at ang Tatlong Haragan (Emang the Enchantress and the Three Rascals). The last four of these titles are still in print, with Nang Magkakulay ang Nayon relaunched in 2010 with English text and a Cebuano translation—a first in Adarna House history.
Adarna House has since published more than 400 original stories, with over a hundred stories still in print as picture books or in collections.
In 2001, Adarna House launched its first teen novellas under the Pilar Perez Medallion for Young Adult Literature: Jacobo's Ghost by Annette Flores-Garcia and Joanne de Leon, Mga Ako by Amalia Salamat and Jose Miguel Tejido, and Sup? by Ma. L. M. Fres-Felix and Paolo Lim. The Medallion books were short lived, and though a handful of young adult books were published in the years following, it was only in 2014 that the company invested in the genre again, releasing four new titles for intermediate readers and young adults that year. This investment paid of, with two of those books, Supremo and Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon, winning National Children's Book Awards. The latter, the first book in a series, also won a National Book Award.
Adarna House began an imprint called Anino Comics in the early 2000s to "cater to readers fascinated by stories told and rendered in artful visuals". Its only books then were Mythology Class and After Eden by Arnold Arre. Anino Comics was revived in 2015 as part of the company's 35th anniversary celebrations. Six books were published by the imprint that year, four of which were chosen as finalists for the National Book Awards.
In its first decade, Adarna House's reference books were composed only of books that would help parents, teachers, and other adults working with children in their duties. Eventually, this line of products would also cater to children and would feature Philippine culture, history, and iconography. A particular series called Adarna Science discusses science concepts and concerns in the Philippine setting.
Several of Adarna House's books have won awards in the Philippines and internationally.
Some of Adarna House's books also bear medals awarded to the work prior to publication.
Adarna House's main office is located in Quezon City. It has just one other branch in La Trinidad, Benguet. To make up for limited visibility, it holds book fairs in schools and participates in trade fairs throughout the year.
The publishing house is also known for its storytelling sessions, called Kuwentong Adarna. Facilitated by a member of Adarna House's pool of storytellers, the sessions are done to encourage children to take up the habit of reading.
Apart from storytelling, Adarna House also facilitates numerous workshops for children and adults. Regularly held during summer vacation, Klasrum Adarna for kids offer a variety of writing and illustration classes, while Klasrum offerings for adults include storytelling, teaching beginning reading, and library improvement among others.
Adarna House also offers book development services to individuals and institutions out to commission the production of a book project. The services include copy writing, editing, research, illustration, art direction, and printing.
Adarna House works with various organizations to carry out its primary goal "to educate and entertain the Filipino child."
In partnership with DepEd and Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC)'s Bright Minds Read!, big books and a collection of lesson plans were developed to help public school teachers use children's literature as a springboard in building reading skills among beginning readers.
The Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Social Welfare (DSWD) and Development are major partners for the Early Childhood Development Project. DSWD also worked with Adarna House for Ang Buhay ni Bimboy, a guide for parents and day care workers in nurturing children.
As one of the main proponents of Teens Read, Too! (a year-long reading campaign for Filipino teenagers), the Filipinas Heritage Library has hosted many of the campaign's activities under its roof. It is through this partnership that the Pilar Perez novellas for young adults were created.
The Meralco Management and Leadership Development Center (MMLDC) Foundation works closely with Adarna House for Lakbay Kalikasan, which promotes environmental awareness through storytelling, puppet shows, and nature trips.
Adarna House serves the Philippine Board on Books for Young People as its Secretariat. With the logistical assistance of Adarna House, PBBY is able to organize its activities such as the National Children’s Book Day celebration, PBBY-Salanga Prize, PBBY-Alcala Prize, and the Salaysayan National Storytelling Competition.
The Reading Association of the Philippines came on board Adarna House’s Libro Mo, Libro Ko program to help identify beneficiaries for the program. For every pledge of donation to these beneficiaries, RAP offers free teacher training and Adarna House comes in with additional book donations.
In 2008, Adarna House and Reach Out and Read-Philippines launched the first bilingual board books in the country during the opening of Aklatang Adarna, a reading corner at the Philippine Children's Medical Center.
Two five-storybook series, Batang Historyador and Batang Katutubo, were completed with United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF).