In the past ten years we’ve fallen head over heals in love with all of the youth with whom we have the privilege of working. Like kids everywhere around the world, the children that our scholars read to in Guatemala are playful and mischievous, shy and rambunctious, eager and full of energy. But unlike in many middle and high-income countries, a childhood in Guatemala is full of risks and not everyone gets to grow up to be healthy and strong.
Today of all days, let’s take a look at 10 things you might not know about children in Guatemala:
- There are almost a half-million babies born in Guatemala every year, but the country has very high childhood mortality. A child is five times more likely to die before their fifth birthday in Guatemala than in the United States. 
- Literacy rates very between men and women, and between Ladino and indigenous populations. Across the country, at least 25% of youth will not be able to read and write when they grow up. 
- Malnutrition is a very common problem and many families do not have access to high quality foods. Almost 50% of all Guatemalan children are stunted because they don’t have access to a balanced diet. 
- Unlike growing up in the United States where we have access to computers and smart phones, only 16% of people in Guatemala have access to the internet which means children can’t connect to resources on the world wide web. 
- Public education is not free in Guatemala and many families cannot afford to send more than one child to school. As a result, in indigenous Guatemalan communities only 1 in 10 children ever reach high school.
- Across Guatemala, 30% of children are married before the age of 18. That means rather than going to college Guatemalan youth are more likely to be getting a job or taking care of house or even starting a family! 
- Since children are getting married early, they are also starting families much younger than we do in the United States. In Guatemala, more than 20% of youth give birth to their first child before the age of 18. 
- In this low income country with nearly 15 million people, roughly half of all families live below the poverty line. Children are growing up with limited access to electricity, running water, and sanitation. 
- Best estimates suggest that as many as 1.5 million Guatemalan children are consistently out of school. Instead of being in a safe classroom they are scraping by on the streets often helping earn a living for their families. 
- The Guatemalan governments spends only 3% of its GDP on education, so even those students who try to go to school often fail out. Sadly, more than 30% of females drop out of school before the third level.