La Puerta Abierta Learning Center began in one small room on the second story of a building in the heart of Santiago Atitlan. Recognizing the importance of having access to books and literature for children and teens, founders Karen Hedrick, a retired school teacher and Amanda Flayer, a former Peace Corps volunteer started La Puerta Abierta in 2007.
The project opened with one part time librarian, a few tables and chairs and a large collection of books. A sign was hung from the roof of the building and not long after, children began to flow into the center. While a few children were truly interested in reading, many more visited the center for homework help. They hoped to gain quick answers to the questions that their teachers had assigned them earlier in the day. La Puerta Abierta was equipped with text books and non-fiction materials to aid in the students’ quest for homework help. However, the children who visited the center to dive into a good book were few and far between.
How could we begin to create a culture of reading in Santiago Atitlan? Throughout the past twelve years, La Puerta Abierta has launched and maintained a variety of projects to inspire the children of Santiago Atitlan to connect with reading including the Traveling Library, saturday morning story hours, Mommy and Me classes, radio readings and a teen reading circle.
In 2010 La Puerta Abierta expanded to include a progressive preschool which provides an inviting, stimulating, and nurturing educational environment for our young learners We follow a creative curriculum which embraces art and exploration.
We’ve grown up over the past twelve years. Our staff of one dedicated librarian has evolved into a team of 15 talented and innovative teachers who continue to establish our center. La Puerta Abierta is now housed in a simple yet aesthetic two room building with large windows and ample sunlight on the outskirts of town. We have an outdoor play garden which welcomes children to jump, run and imagine. We visit eight schools in the Traveling Library program, accommodate two groups of young children in our Mommy and Me classes on weekends, receive a group of 35 teen scholarship students on Sundays for study hours, host a teen reading circle and offer preschool through fifth grade classes at our center.