Some old news is still good news…last November, La Puerta Abierta was invited to participate in the Guadalajara International Book Fair. FILGUA is the biggest celebration of Spanish books in the world, and the second largest book fair world wide. While lost in a sea of books, Candelaria, Ana and I were solicited for an interview with Publishers Weekly Magazine and we were asked, “What is the biggest challenge facing literacy in Guatemala today”?
Here’s our answer…
Rural schools in Guatemala function with the bare necessities…a chalkboard, wooden desks, miniature chairs and dusty shelves. School supplies are scarce and books are nearly non-existent.
As an educators, mothers and librarians we understand that in order to create a generation of readers, children must first have access to books, more specifically, books which they desire to read, be granted time to read them, and ultimately learn that reading is fun!
For those students who are lucky enough to attend public school in rural Guatemala, most will learn to read. However, very few will learn to enjoy a good story or experience the pleasure of having adventures in reading. Even fewer are encouraged to develop their critical thinking and comprehension skills through reading.
Families in rural Guatemala earn just enough to survive day by day. Most men work in the fields harvesting a variety of fruits and vegetables. When work is available, they will bring home approximately $8 a day to cover the living expenses of their family. For the families who struggle to buy tortillas and beans to feed their children, there remains little extra funding for books and educational materials.
The Biblioteca Puerta Abierta has created a safe environment for students to explore reading and connect with literature. By providing story hours, reading clubs, and creativity workshops we have begun to plant the seeds in cultivating a culture of reading. We lend books to students who have never held a storybook in their hands before, giving them the opportunity to loose themselves in a story for the first time.