New School Year Brings New District Partnership

San Andreas Palopo School Directors Meeting

Child Aid Country Director, John van Keppel speaks with principals at an introductory meeting last year.

When Edwin Yaxón, District Supervisor of the San Antonio Palopo district, sat down to talk with members of the Child Aid board of directors in early 2013, he had many positive things to say about the Reading for Life literacy program. Before becoming a school principal and later District Supervisor, Yaxón had participated in Child Aid trainings as a teacher at the Agua Escondida school and had seen, first-hand, the effectiveness of the program in preparing teachers and improving students’ reading skills.

But there was one comment that Yaxón made during the meeting that particularly stuck out for Child Aid CEO Nancy Press.

At the time, Child Aid was working with four of the district’s thirteen primary schools. When asked how Child Aid could help him build on these successes, Yaxón quickly responded that he would like to see Reading for Life in all of the primary schools in his district.

“It was first time that we had had an invitation from a District Supervisor to work with an entire district,” says Press. “It really got us thinking about what the advantages and opportunities would be to work at the district level rather than on a school-by-school basis.”

Yaxón’s comment spurred additional conversations and planning that have culminated in a “district-wide” initiative to bring Reading for Life to all of San Antonio Palopo’s schools.

Edwin Yaxón, San Andreas Palopo District Supervisor

Edwin Yaxón, San Antonio Palopo District Supervisor

For the 2014 school year, which began in January, Child Aid is working in nine new schools in the district and continuing programs in four others. To accommodate this growth and meet the new demands, we have added to our literacy training staff. The Child Aid team is also working with a committee of education leaders from the district to develop a series of training workshops for the district’s principals to be held throughout the year. The objective of the workshops will be to help principals sustain the literacy program when Child Aid leaves and to effectively manage the continued professional development of their teachers.

Country Director John van Keppel says this new partnership with the San Antonio Palopo district is an opportunity for his team to work at the district level to facilitate greater communication and cooperation between teachers, principals and schools.

“We have become very good at working at the classroom level, engaging teachers and helping them become more effective at promoting reading, writing and learning skills.” says van Keppel. “But we haven’t focused as much outside of the classroom – with the school principals, district supervisors, parents and the broader community. With this district-wide partnership, we have the opportunity work directly with the principals and district supervisor and to learn what it takes to integrate them in the program and engage them in our efforts to improve education in their schools.”

The Child Aid team has met with Yaxón and the San Antonio Palopo principals several times in the lead-up the new school year, introducing them to the program and soliciting their feedback and advice on how best to implement it in their schools. That process will continue with the workshops, which van Keppel expects to be very interactive and participatory.

“It has been important for us to include the school directors from the very beginning,” says van Keppel. “This is partly because we know that if they participate in the implementation of the program they will feel a sense of ownership and want it to be successful. But also, their involvement will ensure the long-term sustainability of the program in their schools, which is one of our primary goals.”

“We are going to learn a tremendous amount from this process,” adds Press, “which will inform our work in other schools and districts. I’m hopeful that it will generate more communication between teachers, principals and schools and that this initiative will be a jumping off point for engaging parents and the community as well. Because the more people we get involved in the process of education the better it is for the success of the kids.”

Categories: News
03/11/2014 7:54 AM | 0 Comments

The Child Aid Literacy Team in Action

The Child Aid staff does a tremendous variety of activities in their work promoting literacy in Guatemala. They run training workshops, distribute books, provide one-on-one support for teachers and librarians, work with students and even pitch in to help label and organize books from time to time. Watch this slide show to see the Child Aid staff in action and learn about the many ways they are making a difference in Guatemalan communities.


View the slideshow ›

Categories: Slideshow, Staff Profile, Stories From The Field
03/7/2014 8:00 AM | 0 Comments
Stories From The Field

VIDEO: Read Alouds Bring Joy and Learning

In the communities of rural Guatemala, storybooks in children’s homes are extremely rare and many parents are illiterate. So when an adult sits down to read a book aloud to a group of kids, it is a time of magic and joy. Kids crowd around the reader, eager to see the pictures and hear stories of far-away places and new adventures. For many, storytime is where their love of reading begins.

It’s also where Child Aid begins with it’s training of new teachers and librarians in our efforts to help them promote literacy and improve students’ reading skills. In our literacy trainings, we show them how to make read alouds fun and interactive and provide techniques they can use to develop students’ vocabularies, comprehension and critical thinking skills.

In honor of World Read Aloud Day on March 5th, members of Child Aid’s Literacy Training Team share some of they ways they make story time fun, engaging and educational.

Categories: Stories From The Field
03/4/2014 1:18 PM | 0 Comments

‘Adventures in Reading’ Newspaper Celebrates Success Stories

Librarian Gloria Muños Garcia reads to students in the San Miguel Morazón library.

Librarian Gloria Muños Garcia reads to students in the San Miguel Morazón library.

To commemorate another successful year of our school break reading program, last month the Child Aid staff put together it’s first “Adventures in Reading Newspaper.” Articles contributed by both staff and librarians highlighted activities, special events and accomplishments from the 36 school, community and municipal libraries who participated in the program this year.

Library Coordinator Carlos Pos leads a small group discussion identifying areas of success in this year's Adventures in Reading program.

Library Coordinator Carlos Pos leads a small group discussion with librarians aboutidentifying areas of success in this year’s Adventures in Reading program.

The newspaper was shared with librarians at a wrap-up event held December 6th in Tecpán. Librarians and staff gathered to celebrate their accomplishments, share their experiences and discuss ways to improve and expand their programs next year.

The articles and group discussions focused around three aspects of the Adventures in Reading program: promotion and community outreach, educational programs and activities and techniques for engaging kids and maintaining attendance.

“This event is a celebration, but we also approach it as part of the librarians’ training,” said Library Development Coordinator Carlos Pos. “It gives them an opportunity to reflect on the work they have done. It is also a way for librarians from different communities to share and learn from each other.”

This year, a total of 2,300 children between the ages of 5 and 14 years participated in the Adventures in Reading programs which were held from late October through early December.

The "Periodico Adventureas de Lectura" shared success stories stories from Child Aid's school break reading program.

The “Periodico Adventureas de Lectura” shared success stories stories from Child Aid’s school break reading program.

During their time in the library, the children had the opportunity to hear books being read, write their own stories, read independently and play educational games in spaces designed for use by every age. Some libraries also integrated other activities with themes related to the environment, arts and crafts.

To enhance the educational depth of the programs, this year staff and librarians worked together to add several new activities. In addition to regular read-aloud sessions, many libraries hosted book clubs for higher level readers.  Run by Child Aid staff, the clubs gave kids the experience of reading more challenging books and sharing their thoughts and opinions in a discussion group. Libraries also focused on a variety of writing activities such as producing a school newspaper, creating personal journals and writing contests.

At the end of the wrap-up event, the Child Aid team presented awards to individuals and libraries to acknowledge and celebrate their efforts and accomplishments in the three focus areas. The librarians expressed satisfaction with the success of the Adventures in Reading program this year and the importance of their work promoting a love of reading and writing with the children in their communities.


Excerpts from the Adventures in Reading Newspaper

Read a selection of articles submitted by Child Aid staff and participating librarians and see photos from this year’s program.

El Tejar Mayor Visits Adventures in Reading
By Marielena Ixen, Child Aid Literacy Trainer

On November 11th, municipal officials from El Tejar visited the children at the library at San Miguel Morazán to attend a session of Adventures in Reading run by librarian Amalia Muñoz.

During the visit, Mr. Manolo Méndez, mayor of El Tejar and a former librarian, read the story of the “Beautiful Nose of the Grandmother” to more than eighty children. During the reading, he highlighted the characters and important events of the story, ending with some questions to get the children’s participation. He was happy to see the smiles and attention of every one of the children while they listened attentively to the story.

After the reading, the mayor and his wife congratulated all of the children for participating in the Adventures in Reading program and for taking advantage of the opportunity to help themselves prepare for a better future.

Literacy Trainer Marielena Ixel reads to a group of students at the Melotto School library in El Tejar.

Literacy Trainer Marielena Ixel reads to a group of students at the Melotto School library in El Tejar. The library celebrated it’s sixth year running the Adventures in Reading programs.

Adventures in Reading a Big Success in Sumpango
By Luis Cubur, Librarian, Sumpango Municipal Library

In the Sumpango municipal library, we had a fabulous and entertaining Adventures in Reading program during the school vacation this year.

More than 200 boys and girls of different ages and from different schools in the city participated in the program. The program was planned and directed by head librarian Telma Morales. For two hours per week, the children gathered to hear stories read aloud, participate in activities and enjoy spending time in the library with many books to read.

For me, this program is very important because it helps the children get involved in the world of reading. Also, they can participate in something positive and not spend all of their vacation time at home watching television. I would recommend that the program not only be held during the vacations but also throughout the year because we have very little culture of reading in our communities.

Child Aid's Jorge Sanum leads the book club at the Tzumpago municipal library.

Child Aid’s Jorge Sanum leads the book club at the Sumpago municipal library. The group met weekly to read and discuss books together.

The “Bookworms” Book Club
By Evelyn Camey, Child Aid Literacy Trainer

This year, the library in Chicacao, Suchitepéquez held it’s first book club as part of the Adventures in Reading program. Twenty youths read a book titled “El Libro Salvaje” (“The Wild Book”) by author Juan Villoro. They showed much interest and enthusiasm to be part of the club.

All of the students had participated in the Adventures in Reading program last year. So this year, they were ready to challenge themselves with a book more than 200 pages long! The kids attended every Tuesday and Thursday during the month of November. They started each session doing different activities and reading part of the book. They also had the opportunity to talk about the book with their fellow participants, sharing their observations and making connections between the story and their own lives. For the students, the purpose of the club was to enjoy themselves, form the habit of reading and become better readers.

Participants in the Tzumpago Adventures in Reading were able to check out books to read at home. A boy shows off his selections.

Participants in the Sumpago Adventures in Reading were able to check out books to read at home. A boy enthusiastically shows off his selections.

An Early Start on Reading
by Norma Guzmán, Child Aid Literacy Trainer

The Child of Hope Project works with affiliated families with scarce resources, offering them health and education services for their children. This year the librarians from the Child of Hope Project’s library integrated activities for children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old into their Adventures in Reading program, giving these young children an early introduction to books and reading.

The librarians demonstrated to the mothers how to read a book to their children, giving the children the the experience of manipulating and browsing a book. Using the technique of asking “What are the characters thinking?” the mothers were shown how to address themes such as the feelings of the characters in the book, giving the children the opportunity describe what they observe in the story and illustrations.

This is the first year that Lesbia Morales is participating in the program. She has three children, ages 12, 5 and 3. Lesbia commented that the project complements another Child of Hope program called “Nurturing with Affection,” allowing her to educate and raise her children with love and care.

Lesbia can especially see the change in her youngest child, three-year-old Fátima. Lesbia says Fátima expresses herself better, talks more and has an improved vocabulary. Also, when Fátima goes out of the house, she makes connections with what she has seen in her books.

Lesbia thinks the program is a great benefit, not only for Fatima but also for the other children who are now better at reading. She is proud of what she is learning so she can help her children have a better education. Now she dedicates time every day to read with her children. They enjoy learning how to read together.

Members of the book club work on identifying unfamiliar words from their book "La Sopresa de la Noche."

Members of the book club work on identifying unfamiliar words from their book “La Sopresa de la Noche.”

Adventures in Reading Makes Young Journalists
By Jeremias Morales and Graciela Landa, Child Aid Training Coordinators

Child Aid always looks for ways to innovate and improve the reading and writing of children in the communities where we work. This year, we wanted to improve the Adventures in Reading program by creating a bridge between being a reader and becoming a writer. We introduced the children to how to become a writer through the magnificent tool of the school newspaper. This experience gave the children the opportunity to practice the writing process and write for a variety of audiences and try a variety of types of writing.

They began by writing news articles about local events. Later they conducted interviews with parents or prominent people in their communities. Through the medium of writing, they were able to make connections between previous knowledge and new knowledge.

During the course of the development of the school papers, the boys and girls had the opportunity to participate as reporters, editors or photographers but all gave their ideas and opinions about what they wanted to write about and communicate to the community.

With faces full of smiles and pride, the children participated with much enthusiasm and interest during these sessions of Adventures in Reading. The experience encouraged them to practice the characteristics of good writers.

We hope that more teachers and librarians will learn to use this newspaper activity with their students because it offers diverse reasons and audiences for the student’s writing and will help them find real success during this important phase of becoming a good reader and writer.

Student writing journals on display.

Student writing journals on display. This year librarians integrated a variety of writing activities into the Adventures in Reading program.

Spreading Reading Through the Community
By Graciela Landa, Child Aid Training Coordinator and Nancy Santizo, Child Aid Literacy Trainer

This year, the kids participating in the Adventures in Reading program in Agua Escondida joined with the librarian and the Child Aid team for walks through the town’s streets to promote reading in the community.

The walks were held every Friday during the month of November, inviting the community to access and use the books in the local library. The kids carried various books from the library with them and offered to loan books to people they met in homes and on the street who were interested in reading. The walks also promoted the library’s programs within the community and the importance of developing a habit of reading, not just for the children but for all of the members of the community.

Categories: News
01/24/2014 8:12 AM | 0 Comments

Teaching Students Bring ‘Adventures in Reading’ Back to Their Communities

Socorro de Belen Graduation

Instructor Jorge Sanum (far right) with teaching students from the Socorro de Belen school.

After two years of studying to become teachers, the students at the Socorro de Belen school took on their last and most challenging assignment. Last month they returned to their hometowns to set up and run Adventures in Reading, Child Aid’s school break literacy program, in their communities.

At the end of the school year, the students gathered to collect their certificates of completion and receive packets of storybooks that they used for read-aloud sessions and writing activities, sharing what they’ve learned with a new generation of readers.

They also got some last minute instructions and encouragement from Teaching Training Coordinator and Instructor Jorge Sanum.

“It is a challenge for such young students to start a literacy program in their communities, especially finding a space and recruiting students,” said Sanum. “They are all a bit nervous but also determined.”

Socorro de Belen Teacher Training

Instructor Jorge Sanum demonstrates techniques for conducting a read-aloud session.

The students are part of a unique Child Aid program at Socorro de Belen, a private Catholic school in Antigua that provides scholarships for indigenous women to become teachers. For the past two years, in addition to their regular studies, the students met weekly with instructor Jorge Sanum to develop their their own reading and writing skills and learn techniques for teaching reading comprehension and critical thinking in the classroom.

In Guatemala, most teacher training programs are taught at the high school level, where students get a basic certification to teach.

“We’ve found that most of the teaching students have poor primary education backgrounds themselves and lack basic reading comprehension and critical thinking skills, says Country Director John van Keppel. “That was especially true for the the Socorro students, who come from very rural and impoverished communities.”

“So we designed a two year program for them. The first year focuses on helping them develop reading and writing skills, using many of the activities and techniques we teach in our Reading for Life program. In the second year we reinforce those skills and help them develop the ability to include them in their teaching when they go back to their communities.”

Through the generosity of the Paiz Foundation, Child Aid is able to offer this program to a total of three schools and 227 students.

Student Flor de María Escobar Coc says the class has given her a new understanding of her role as a teacher as well as practical skills she can use in the classroom.

“My favorite part was learning the techniques” she says, “because it showed me that learning is not only about listening but can also be about participating. I feel that after this experience I can be a better teacher, at least I hope to be. I know now how to treat each child because each child is different in how they learn.”

Socorro students select books to use in their Adventures in Reading programs.

Socorro students select books to use in their Adventures in Reading programs.

For their final assignment, students began preparing for their Adventures in Reading programs in September. They reviewed books and made a book plan, practiced read-aloud techniques, planned and found materials for additional activities and decided how they were going to promote the program and recruit kids to participate.

“The assignment is voluntary,” said Sanum, “but we had 35 of the 37 students at Socorro de Belen participate. Each of the students will do the program differently depending on their time and resources. Many are running their programs in their parents’ homes because there isn’t a library or school space available.”

“The Adventures in Reading piece is an important part of their training,” added Sanum, “because it will give these students opportunities to apply the skills they’ve learned and develop some community leadership experience.”

Categories: News
12/3/2013 6:49 AM
Staff Profile

Jeremias Morales: Followups Deliver Training Techniques That Work

Jeremias Morales Teacher Followup

Literacy Trainer Jeremias Morales works with a teacher during a followup session.

When Literacy Trainer Jeremias Morales walks into a classroom, kids pay attention.

Whether he’s reading a story, running an activity or working with a small group of students, Jeremias brings an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm to his work. He is adept at engaging kids, getting them involved in learning and making the experience of reading fun and interesting.

“This work is challenging and there can be problems,” he says. “but I’ve learned if you have enthusiasm it makes everything easier to handle.”

As one of Child Aid’s seven Literacy Trainers, Jeremias’ work is at the heart of Child Aid’s Reading for Life program and part of what distinguishes it from other teacher training programs.

Much of his time during the school year is spent on follow-up visits with teachers, one-on-one sessions where the trainers help teachers apply the techniques and activities they learned in Reading for Life workshops in their classrooms.

“In the workshops, the teachers are introduced to the concepts and techniques, but after a few days or weeks it might fade,” says Jeremias. “In the followups we talk about their experiences and can discover what’s working and what’s not. We talk about what they are observing, what problems they are having and what they can do differently.”

Jeremias Morales Teacher Followup

Literacy Trainer Jeremias Morales works with a teacher during a followup session.

On a typical day, Jeremias gets up early at his home in San Lucas Toliman near Lake Atitlan and hits the road to visit one of the five schools he manages in the region. After each workshop, Jeremias will do two follow-up visits with every teacher. In the first session, he works directly with the students, modeling the activity and techniques for the teacher. In the second visit, he observes the teacher using the techniques themselves, offering suggestions and advice to help them improve.

It is time-consuming work. Meeting with 45 teachers over two workshops, Jeremias did nearly 200 teacher follow-up sessions this school year.

“I usually spend an hour or more with each teacher,” he says, “Since school gets out at 12:30, I can do at most three followups in a day – two before the recess and one after.”

But, he adds, the personal support and regular contact is important in helping teachers continue to progress and it’s rewarding to see the changes in teacher’s skills and student’s learning over time.

“I like it when I can see that they understand a concept and I know I’ve helped them get better,” he says.

Jeremias grew up in the town of Las Canoas, near Lake Atitlan, and speaks Kaqchikel, K’iche and Tzutujil in addition to Spanish. Although he was a good student, he says reading was taught by repetition and decoding and was very boring. His parents encouraged him to read, but he had little access to books, especially storybooks and novels. It wasn’t until after he reached university and developed a love of learning that he discovered the value of books in his life.

“I remember when I was a kid, I never had the opportunity to talk about a book. Reading was just for homework,” he says. “Now when I hear about a book on a topic I’m interested in, I want to read it because I want to get the new knowledge.”

In his work with Child Aid, Jeremias says he hopes he can pass on his enthusiasm for reading and help students understand that learning can be fun and important to their lives.

“I want the kids to get as excited about a new book as they are about playing football at recess. I try to show how school can be fun and not so boring. Because when reading is fun, they learn.”

VIDEO: Watch Jeremias at work during a teacher follow up session.

Categories: Staff Profile
11/12/2013 6:41 AM

A ‘To-Do’ List for Improving Libraries

Child Aid partner libraries like the Cecopa Library in Patzun focus on creating friendly, welcoming environments for young readers.

Child Aid partner libraries like the Cecopa Library in Patzun focus on creating friendly, welcoming environments for young readers.

As the only librarian in the town of San Miguel Morazán, Gloria Muños Garcia has worked hard to make her small municipal library a resource for her community.

“I have learned how to classify and organize books,” she says, describing her accomplishments. “I invited teachers from the local school to bring their students to the library for story hour, I created a special activity corner for children and I started a backpack lending program to get some of the new books to the schools.”

But when she started the job four years ago, Muños Garcia had little experience as a librarian and few resources to work with.

“The library only had some tables, chairs and a few books,” she says. “There was no system of classification, no reading program and no relationship with local teachers. It was mostly used as a place for students to do their homework.”

At the time, San Miguel Morazán was typical of libraries in Guatemala, where people’s expectations and definition of what a library should be are very different from other parts of the world.

“Since books are so rare and expensive in Guatemala and there isn’t a culture of reading among the general population, libraries have a very limited purpose here.” says Child Aid Country Director John van Keppel.

Like many Guatemalan libraries, the Municipal library in Patzun keeps its small collection of books behind a counter and out of reach of patrons.

Like many Guatemalan libraries, the Municipal library in Patzun keeps its small collection of books behind a counter and out of reach of patrons.

In Guatemala, libraries are principally used to help high school students with their homework. Since schools do not have enough books, students come to the library to find information for a report they are writing or to complete their daily assignments. That usually means making photocopies or copying information, word for word, out of a book.

Guatemalan libraries offer few other services to their patrons. Books are kept behind a counter or in a locked area and are rarely checked out. Most libraries’ collections are out of date and limited to textbooks, encyclopedias and reference books. They have few fiction or storybooks that might engage young readers.

To help librarians like Muños Garcia make their libraries more effective resources in their communities, Child Aid has developed a librarian training program based on sixteen “Characteristics of a Model Library.” For librarians who have never experienced working in a fully functioning library, the characteristics provide a helpful “to do” list for where to focus their efforts and improve their services.

“Our goal has been to develop libraries that can be resource centers for educational initiatives, particularly in the schools,” says van Keppel. “Given the librarians’ limited resources and experience, we have identified a base level that would allow libraries to promote literacy in significant ways.”

The characteristics cover three basic areas: creating a welcoming physical environment, developing administrative and management systems and running literacy and outreach programs. The characteristics offer very specific and practical guidelines – such as creating special activity corners, setting and maintaining regular hours or providing lending programs.

Librarian Gloria Muños Garcia shows off the many changes she’s made in her small municipal library in the town of San Miguel Morazán.

Librarian Gloria Muños Garcia shows off the many changes she’s made in her small municipal library in the town of San Miguel Morazán.

“The librarian’s job in a typical Guatemalan library is often focused on making photocopies of books for student assignments and answering reference questions,” says Director of Curriculum and Instruction Erin Conway. “So the characteristics give them a more complete picture of what a library can be. We emphasize that it’s an ongoing process. Even if you only implement one or two of the characteristics per year, you’ve made your library better.”

For librarian Muños Garcia, the Child Aid trainings and support have given her a vision for how she can transform the mission of her small library. She has implemented changes that have improved the library’s services and extended its reach into local schools. Now her library has dozens of school kids of all ages visiting every week and she is bubbling with ideas for more improvements.

READ MORE: Characteristics of a Successful Library

Categories: News
11/8/2013 9:23 AM

How Book Donations Make a Difference


Child Aid received and distributed over 50,000 donated books from U.S. publishers and non-profit book consolidators this year. See how we got those books to rural schools and libraries, how they are being used and the difference they are making in the lives of Guatemalan children.

View the slideshow ›

Categories: Slideshow
10/8/2013 11:22 AM

Librarians Gather for ‘Adventures in Reading’ Workshop

Adventures in Reading Workshop

The Guatemalan school year ends in October and as schools begin to wind down, Child Aid staff and partner libraries are getting ready to launch another year of Adventuras de Lectura (Adventures in Reading), Child Aid’s school break reading program.

This past week, forty-seven librarians gathered in Antigua for the first of three Adventures in Reading workshops. They came to learn the basics of how to plan and run the program in their libraries but also to get ideas for planning weekly themes, selecting books for different reading levels and creating activities that help get kids involved in reading. In addition, they received a new packet of storybooks to take back to their libraries and use in the program.

“In the communities where we work, many of our children don’t have the habit of reading,” says Rigoberto Chacach, coordinator of two community libraries near Tecpan, Chimaltenango. “During the vacations, the kids simply stay at home or hang around and they don’t have a lot to do. With this program, we have a plan for how to get kids to the library, capture their attention and develop different activities for them.”

Literacy Trainer Nancy Samayoa leads a group of librarians in Child Aid's Adventures in Reading workshop.

Literacy Trainer Nancy Samayoa leads a group of librarians in Child Aid’s Adventures in Reading workshop.

“The most important goal of the program is that the students continue to enjoy reading during their vacations,” adds Child Aid Library Coordinator Carlos Pos. “In this country, kids don’t have many opportunities to be read to and have contact with books, especially during the break. So when the librarians are reading to the kids every day, they really enjoy it.”

Started seven years ago with a single library in the community of El Tejar, Adventures in Reading is Child Aid’s oldest reading program. This year, 36 participating libraries from around Guatemala will host programs, including school, municipal and community libraries.

Most programs are between four and six weeks long, depending on the size of the library, with a different theme each week. Librarians plan a mixture of activities to engage students and make the experience fun. There are read-aloud sessions, word games, writing activities and guided discussions that help the students develop better comprehension skills and encourage them to use their imagination.

For many of the librarians attending the workshop, Adventures in Reading is their first opportunity to learn how to plan and run reading activities out of their libraries.

Librarian Gloria Amalia Muños Garcia has been working at the Aldca San Miguel Morazan municipal library in El Tejar for four years and is getting ready to run her third Adventures in Reading program. When she started, she says, her library had very few resources and few of the characteristics of a successful library.

“The library only had some tables, chairs and a few books. There was no system of classification, no reading programs. It was mostly used as a place for students to do their homework.”

But after attending some Child Aid workshops and receiving support from the librarians at the El Tejar Community Library, Muños Garcia began to transform the mission of her small library.

“I learned how to classify and organize books, I invited teachers from the local school to bring their students to the library for story hour, and I started a backpack lending program to get some of the new books to the schools.”

Muños Garcia says the Child Aid workshops continue to be a useful resource for her, especially with curriculum planning.

Child Aid's Director of Curriculum, Erin Conway, shows a group of librarians how to set up and play a simple word game.

Child Aid’s Director of Curriculum, Erin Conway, shows a group of librarians how to set up and play a simple word game.

“I have plans prepared from past years,” she says, “but today I’m getting some new ideas – what books to select, how much time to spend on activities, how to promote the program in the community. This workshop is always very productive because it includes not only theory but also lots of activities and practice.”

This year’s group of workshop participants was the largest ever and included a mix of returning librarians along with many first-timers.

“The mix of experiences is important to the success of the workshops,” says Carlos Pos. “The new librarians often come in with many doubts and don’t know what to do or how to do it. But when they hear about the positive experiences of other librarians, it gives them confidence and motivates them to do their best.”

Next, the librarians will return to their libraries to begin planning and promoting the Adventures in Reading program in their communities. They will gather again in mid-October for a second workshop focusing on writing activities. The Child Aid staff will also continue to provide support for the librarians as they get ready to launch their programs, usually at the beginning of November.

“Adventures in Reading is an important program for us,” says Child Aid Country Director John van Keppel, “because it not only helps kids continue to become good readers but it also helps bring the community into the library and understand the importance of the library as a community resource. By running the program, librarians get the experience of being active reading promoters, which helps them in their work throughout the year.”

Categories: News
10/1/2013 7:26 AM
Stories From The Field

New Books Help School Launch a Weekend Lending Program

La Vega Students exchange badges for books in the school's weekend lending program.

La Vega Students exchange badges for books in the school’s weekend lending program.

Earlier this year, the tiny school of La Vega near Patzun, Guatemala started something new for their 40 students. Every Friday, a group of student leaders, called the Gobierno Escolar, selects books from the school’s small library and visits classrooms to distribute the books to their fellow students. The students hand in their ID badges as collateral and are free to take the books home for the weekend to read and share with their parents and siblings.

The weekend lending program seems like a simple idea, but it is revolutionary for the students of La Vega and their families, who rarely have books in their homes. Now students have more time to practice their reading skills and develop a love of reading.

Students at the La Vega school read the new books during their recess.

Students at the La Vega school read the new books during their recess.

“The students are motivated now and don’t have to be pressured to read on their own,” says La Vega teacher Maily Perez Canu. “Every day they want to exchange books and find something new that interests them.”

It’s also a program that wasn’t possible a until a few months ago.

One of the advantages for schools in participating in Child Aid’s Reading For Life program is they receive high-quality children’s books. The principal at La Vega, Juana Mactzul Mucia, says she has always wanted to do a lending program for her students, but never had enough books in the school to make it possible.

La Vega joined Reading for Life last school year and recieved their first new books in January. Once she had a reliable supply of books through Child Aid, Mactzul Mucia says she finally had the confidence to start loaning them out to students.

“We distribute books to schools and provide training, but we don’t necessarily know how they are going to choose use them,” says Child Aid Country Director John van Keppel. “The key for us is that they are finding ways to get the books closer to the kids so they can use and interact with them. La Vega is a small school, so this weekend lending program is a great solution for them. I especially like that it is helping get the books into the student’s homes where parents can see them.”

“We have had chats with the mothers of every child that they will be bringing books home on the weekends,” says teacher Perez Canu. “Then the mothers are involved in the program. They know to expect that the children will be bringing books home and can make the time to read the books with their children.”

Osbin reads to his mother and brothers outside their home.

Osbin reads to his mother and brothers outside their home.

Erita Loyda Parlopez’s son Osbin is a member of the Gobierno Escolar at La Vega and is an enthusiastic reader. She says her two sons bring home books every weekend and Osbin enjoys reading to his baby brother. “He likes all the books,” she says. “I can tell he is thriving because I see the change in his reading ability.”

Weekend lending is an example of ways schools are encouraging students to develop a habit of reading, one of the key objectives of the Reading for Life program.

“The skills of reading have to be practiced,” says van Keppel. “We try to encourage any opportunity for kids to read on their own time and develop a love for reading. Independent reading helps the reader improve their vocabulary, increase comprehension and build the confidence they need to read at higher levels and expand their interests.”

La Vega received it’s second delivery of new books early last month, which included over 800 storybooks and non-fiction books and two bookshelves on wheels to make it easier to move them between classrooms and make them available to students during recess.

Teacher Perez Canu says the recent arrivals have helped the school expand the lending program and have stimulated even more interest in reading in her students.

“During recess, after they have finished their homework, the students often come to get books,” she says. Not all the kids like to play all the time, some like to read. Now it is expected that a child that wants to read can find a book. And they are reading them in the schoolyard and on the swings. It has been really good.”

Categories: Stories From The Field
09/16/2013 7:09 AM | 0 Comments