The library in Concepción is a very special place for Reading Village.
One of the most powerful of these stories details an actual physical transformation in one of our communities.
Concepción is a small city in the Department of Sololá. One of the notable characteristics of Concepción is that the population is almost entirely indigenous. This means a couple of things in particular.
First of all, the poverty rate is fairly high – almost three times the rate of the population as a whole.
Secondly (and relatedly), this means that the literacy and high school graduation rate is relatively low.
Literacy, graduation, and economic success are closely linked, and a young Maya with a high school diploma can essentially double their income. Unfortunately, tuition for high school in Guatemala can cost more than a typical family’s annual income.
It can be a vicious cycle, but you can help break it.
Act by October 31st, and your donation will help even more students stay in school and graduate, thanks to our 100% matching gift!
Building Libraries Helps Students Stay in School.
Providing a safe space for children and teens to read can radically alter the way a community sees reading and education, transforming it from something seen as an unpleasant chore at best, to an exciting and creative outlet and resource.
When we started our Leaders and Readers Program, Concepción had no library. But there was an empty storefront in the business district.
Inspired by their newfound love of reading, a group of our teens had a vision: they would transform this abandoned and dilapidated tienda into a thriving biblioteca.
Creating a Culture of Reading & Education, One Bookshelf at a Time.
Working with other community leaders, our students secured the building, recruited local craftspeople and volunteers, rolled up their sleeves, and got down to brass tacks.
Over the course of the next several months, thanks to hours and hours of hard work, talent, and perseverance, a thriving new space was created.
Shelves and bookcases were built or installed; a warm, bright coat of paint applied to the drab cinder block walls; carpets and rugs laid to soften the cold concrete floors. Art was hung on the walls.
And of course books were brought in.
The idea was to create a space where everyone was welcome: young and old, rich and poor, male and female. And to create a sustainable culture that respected education and encouraged students to stay in school.
There are a few characteristics common to successful libraries, especially new ones, and particularly those in communities where there is not a strong reading culture already in place.
- Books visible and available – Because Guatemala does not have a strong culture of literacy, most libraries are not set up to allow general access to the books. They are generally kept behind the desk and made available for students to do research and to make copies, but not generally to check out. Also, any books in inventory are typically textbooks, rather than general interest reading materials.
In contrast, our teens have made hundreds of books brought into the Concepción Biblioteca available to the public.
- Well organized physical space – A great library should have plenty of well-lit work spaces and activity areas, plus space for art and display.
Our library has a central area for our older teens to read to children, beautiful art on the walls, and a wide range of books for a variety of reading levels. The walls are painted in warm golds, with deep, welcoming highlights.
- Administration and management – A model library has a strong staff and effective management team to administer, organize, and control the inventory of books, programs, and other materials.
In one of the most inspirational aspects of this story, our students appointed a teen Board of Directors to run the library.
This Year Alone, 15 of Our Youth Leaders – Like the Ones
Who Completed This Project – Have Graduated High School.
Who Completed This Project – Have Graduated High School.
The Concepción Biblioteca opened and became an immediate success, drawing children and teens from the town and the surrounding area.
During one of our recent trips to check in on how the Leaders and Readers Program was doing, and to connect with our staff and students, we were able to observe a reading session held in the comfortable and welcoming space.
And it was truly a tribute to the dedication and commitment of our teens, who have not only transformed a physical space, but have brought into being a culture of literacy, a passion for reading, and a community-wide acknowledgement of the importance of education.
We are confident (and the research bears this out) that students who have participated in building the library and in the public reading sessions have a much stronger chance of sticking with their education and ultimately graduating from high school, with all the benefits that come along with that achievement.
In the session we attended, three Youth Leaders were working together. One of them read the story La Cucarachita Martina aloud to a group of about 25 children.
It was so inspiring to see these three teens – the oldest of whom was only 15 at the time – completely master their audience of excited children, who ranged in age from one to five!
When the children heard that there was to be a reading session, they swarmed the small library, continuing to file into the room throughout the reading. Other than our observer, Karen, there were no other adults. This activity was completely planned and orchestrated by our students.
The children were enraptured. They engaged with the material and with the facilitators, responding with laughter and the joy of reading.
It’s our hope that these children take their love of reading and transform it into a passion for education – that they can apply the same perseverance they showed in creating the library to graduating from high school.
Help Sustain This Passion for Education & Reading!
From now until October 31st, every contribution you make will be matched 100%, increasing the impact of your donation exponentially – helping even more students stay in school and graduate.