Founded in 2007, Reading Village’s mission is to empower youth to eradicate illiteracy and lead their communities out of poverty. Working in partnership with rural, indigenous Maya communities, the organization leverages youth development, literacy and education as mechanisms to improve quality of life and transform the lives of participants and those around them.

Here are a few things you might be wondering:

Why is youth leadership important?

Reading Village believes that poverty is a human construct and can be eliminated through the development of grassroots local leadership. Our Leaders and Readers Program gives teens the opportunity to build leadership skills during their most formative years and in turn, our youth leaders, seeing the impact they have on the children in their community, are transformed. They find self-worth, confidence and a new vision for their community that sparks their initiative to become leaders in other areas of their lives. By focusing on the development of youth leaders and using literacy as a vehicle for their leadership development, we focus not on individual achievement but on leveraging individual achievement to better entire communities — without creating dependency on the organization.

How will literacy interrupt generational poverty?

Reading Village believes that every child should be able to grow up free to express their fullest self and reach their fullest potential. By spreading literacy, we help each child better contribute to their families, their communities, their countries and the world. Research shows that children who are read to before they are in school and who continue to be read to as part of a daily routine throughout their early education will outperform their peers who did not have the same opportunities. Reading for fun helps build creative and critical thinking skills, vocabularies, communication techniques, and learning confidence. Reading Village focuses on literacy not only because it is an end in itself, but also because it is a means to more transformative ends like economic self-sufficiency, good health, a political voice and a greater understanding of the world. Being literate also gives children the power to dream.

How many students are impacted by Reading Village’s work? And how?

In 2017, the organization’s 11th year, 95 youth leaders in five rural communities reached 4,750 elementary school-aged children with three hours of reading activities each week. Evaluations have confirmed that as a result of the Leaders and Readers Program, sixth graders who spent all six years of primary school in the program have a greater love of reading, have improved Spanish comprehension skills (Spanish is their second language), and more developed critical and creative thinking skills than sixth graders with whom Reading Village had no intervention. On top of gaining leadership skills, the teens in Reading Village’s program are also getting an education. Because the cost of attending public school is more than half an average family’s annual income, only 10% of students in the Department of Solola attend high school. Participants in the Leaders and Readers Program receive a full 4-year high school scholarship. And when they graduate they are capable of doubling their families’ incomes with the professional employment they seek. In 2015, 78% of our alumni were employed and 40% studied at university, some were doing both.

How are youth leaders using their leadership skills outside of the program?

To date, youth leaders in two of our partner communities have opened their first-ever public libraries, with a third library in the works. Our teens are class and school presidents, sports team leaders and church youth group leaders. And two alumni are completing the last year of a three-year fellowship at the Asturias Academy, an innovative school in Xela, the second largest city in Guatemala. They are full time teachers and university students. Their fellowship training includes progressive teaching strategies and entrepreneurship skills. Their dream is to return to their community and revolutionize education by opening a branch of Asturias in their region.

What impact has Reading Village had in the past 10 years?

  • More than 25,000 hours of literacy activities have happened since the Leaders and Readers Program started in 2009.
  • More than 12,000 children have experienced the joy of having access to story books. And, more than half of those children have experienced the joy of someone reading aloud to them.
  • Reading Village has provided more than 10,000 books to orphanages, schools, libraries, other literacy programs and, of course, the collections of the teen youth leaders in the Reading Village program.
  • For the first time, Reading Village has youth leaders in the program who spent all six years of elementary school in the program being read to by teens. These former recipients of literacy promotion activities are now leading those important activities for the children behind them. The unique perspective they bring to the program as former recipients shows a greater skill than the teens in previous years who had no models when they were growing up.
  • Angel Alfredo, born to two Reading Village alumni in February 2016, is the first child born in his village to parents who have been reading to him since he was in the womb, who have high school diplomas, university studies and the means and desire to educate him. Angel is the beginning of the future Reading Village is co-creating with their partner communities.

Are donations to Reading Village tax deductible?

Reading Village is a legally registered 501c3 US-based non-profit organization. All donations to Reading Village are tax deductible.