Opening Books, Opening Doors

In 2021, The Puerta Abierta put renewed focus into supporting literacy in the region. Our focus was specifically to redesign and expand our Libros Abiertos program. We applied for and received a Thank Offering grant from Presbyterian Women in 2021. With the help of this grant, we have spent the last two years training teachers from across Guatemala, equipping them with books and the skills to instill a love of learning and reading in their students.

Many families in rural Guatemala earn just enough to survive day-to-day. Most men work in the fields cultivating produce. When work is available, they will bring home approximately $8 a day. After living expenses, little remains to purchase books and educational materials. Beyond limited access to books in rural Guatemala, most teachers have few opportunities for professional development, and parents are just beginning to explore the power of reading for enjoyment. Children who are lucky enough to attend public schools in rural Guatemala will learn to read and memorize basic math facts. However, very few students have access to the range and types of materials that can open door to a love of reading and joy of immersing oneself in a book. Even fewer students will be encouraged to develop their critical thinking and comprehension skills.

At the Puerta Abierta, we believed that an expanded Libros Abiertos program could strengthen reading skills, literacy, and educational outcomes for children (primarily indigenous) in under-resourced Guatemalan schools where books are sparse. Our grant application outlined how innovative training and ample professional development for Guatemalan educators could strengthen the literacy skills of more than 3,000 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

In the two years since receiving the $50,000 Thank Offering grant, we have successfully created a training site that teachers from across the country could visit to learn about the innovative teaching practices developed at the learning center. In addition, the Puerta Abierta has hosted two in-person, multiday trainings for 25 teachers from different communities, focused on using children’s books with their educational communities. Each participating teacher received two book kits; each kit contains 14 high-quality, culturally-representative, Spanish-language children’s picture books. The grant also made possible the development of two manuals to support teachers in their roles as community literacy outreach coordinators. The Puerta Abierta was also able to develop an online, remote learning program to provide ongoing training and support for teachers in the Libros Abiertos program.

Thank you, Presbyterian Women, for supporting The Puerta Abierta Atitlán! You have helped train 25 educators, distribute more than 700 high-quality children’s books, and spread the joy of reading throughout Guatemala!

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