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 scholarship program gives children and teens the opportunity to discover 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 literacy and education as a vehicle for  community impact, we hope to not only promote individual achievement, but to leverage that achievement to improve entire communities through the creation and nurturing of a culture of reading and education.

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 2018​, the organization’s twelth​ year, 95 youth leaders in five rural communities have reached thousands of elementary school-aged children with three hours of reading activities each week. Evaluations have confirmed that as a result of our programs, sixth graders who spent all six years of primary school with us have a greater love of reading and improved Spanish comprehension skills (Spanish is their second language), and more developed critical and creative thinking skills than sixth graders with whom we had no intervention. 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 our program receive a full 4-year high school scholarship. When they graduate they are capable of doubling their families’ incomes with the professional employment they seek.

How are program participants using their new skills outside of the program?

To date, youth leaders in two of our partner communities have opened their first-ever public libraries. 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 12 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.
  • 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.