Guiding Principles & Mission
We believe education is the most effective long-term solution to poverty. Day in and day out we work to improve children’s lives by helping them learn to read, succeed in school and develop the literacy skills they need to improve their lives. To do this most effectively, we rely on these guiding principles:
- The ability to read is both personally empowering and essential to a child’s capacity to imagine, pursue and realize a better life.
- Local individuals know the most culturally appropriate and effective way to bring about change. We hire and train nearly all of our staff from within and around the regions where we work. Their knowledge informs and shapes our program, which we tailor to each community.
- Indigenous culture must be valued. Most of the people we work with are indigenous Mayas. We therefore strive to create programs that respect local indigenous languages and cultures. Most of our Guatemalan staff members are indigenous and speak at least one indigenous language, including K’iché, Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil.
- Long-term commitment is a must. Whenever we partner with a community, we commit to a minimum of three years of training and capacity-building for local teachers and librarians. In addition, we provide ongoing resources, consulting, training, and materials when the community requests our assistance and continues to make progress toward improving literacy for children.
- Training is the most effective way to bring about lasting change. Our program invests in rural teachers by developing skills they use the rest of their lives—skills that will turn generations of children into better readers.
- Flexibility is key. We recognize that we don’t have all the answers. By listening closely to the people who participate in our program, we continually adapt, innovate and improve Reading for Life so it most effectively serves the people involved. Flexibility is crucial to success in the regions where we work.
- Organizational integrity is vital. We operate a nimble, efficient and streamlined organization. We consistently devote nearly all of our income to programs.
What We Do and How We Do It
Our mission is development through literacy.
We focus on rural villages where illiteracy is disproportionately affecting indigenous people.
We achieve this mission though an integrated, multi-year program that provides teacher training, librarian training, and the distribution of over 100,000 Spanish language children’s books to schools and libraries.
Utilizing best practices proven effective in developing countries, we have third party evaluations confirming fidelity to our program design.
As these programs spread and more partnerships are made at administrative levels within the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, we seek to impact systemic change in teacher training methods and expectations through the effective grassroots advocacy of our Guatemalan students, parents, teachers, principals, school administrators and civic leaders.
Every year of school a child completes represents an estimated 13 percent increase in their future annual income. Education improves maternal, child and family health. It slows the spread of HIV/AIDS, decreases violent crime and improves the overall economic health of communities. We know of no other approach to alleviating poverty that has an impact this broad and long lasting.