Cookies and Hot Dogs

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When Amilcar Zea was 8 years old he was lured into the National Library by the Director and a plate of cookies. She read him the first part of Treasure Island, and he enjoyed his visit to the library so much that he returned the next day. He walked into the library to find Treasure Island on a table for him, skillfully left open to the page where the Director had left off the day before. He couldnĀ“t resist picking up the book and finishing the story for himself. He was hooked!

Amilcar told me this story, taking me back to the exact moment when he fell in love with books, to explain the passion behind the work he now does. Amilcar has a room filled with books in his back yard where he reads to children every day and offers them books to take home, offering them the same opportunity to become readers and discover the love of reading for themselves.

I asked Amilcar many questions about his organization, Casa del Libro, including how he measured its success. He mentioned some standard measurements like children attending, books read, report card improvement, etc. But then he told me about the boy in their program who works as a hot dog vendor.

This 10-year-old boy works selling hot dogs from a cart on the street. Part of his payment comes in the form of hot dogs. He gets one large hot dog each day he works. And what he does is, instead of eating a large hot dog, he eats a small one, and he pockets the difference. He saves his centavos to buy books and he is constantly reading when hot dog sales are slow! This is what I call impact.

I would love to put an Amilcar in every town.

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