News

Does Our Program Work? The Answer is YES!

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Child Aid’s goal is to improve children’s literacy skills so they become strong and independent readers and critical thinkers. Our Reading for Life program follows best practices to provide young readers the basic resources they need to learn and thrive: Skilled and confident teachers, engaging books, and opportunities to read every day, both in and out of school.

Each year, we get more and more enthusiastic comments from teachers, principals, school officials and parents about our program. Demand for Reading for Life is growing exponentially.  And that feels great to all of us.

But a key, lingering question has remained: Does Reading for Life actually help kids learn to read?  We see and hear evidence of it every day, but how do we know it works? Would they, for instance, do better on reading comprehension tests than students not exposed to the Reading for Life program?  Well, it turns out that the answer is YES.

In our main study, we used a test provided by USAID and the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, to test second and third grade students.  We tested almost 2,000 students at the beginning and end of school year and measured changes in their reading comprehension skills. Half of the students tested were in schools just beginning the Reading for Life program and half were in matched control schools that did not participate in the program.

The results are now in and they are hugely encouraging. Children in the Reading for Life program schools showed a 65% improvement  in reading comprehension test scores compared with their peers in similar schools.

These results are statistically significant and showed a strong effect size, meaning that our program is very likely the most important factor in improving student scores. This is an impressive result for an educational program, especially after only one year of the intervention.

There is a lot of research showing how difficult it is to demonstrate that any educational intervention has a strong impact.  That is because so much of student performance is determined by things that happen outside the classroom. In studies like these, the calculation of effect size is used to measure how much an intervention contributed to the results. In most studies of educational interventions, effect sizes are rarely as large as .30. In our main study, the effect size was .37.

In a second study, we compared students in the third year of the Reading for Life program with students from non-Child Aid Schools. The students who had been in the program longer also did significantly better than those in the control schools and with a stronger effect size of .53.

These strength of these results were a big surprise and very encouraging for us. They show that not only is our program working but also suggest that the increases in student skills will continue to grow the longer students attend Child Aid schools. It means that the full impact and success of our program is yet to be seen.

This year we are continuing our evaluation and testing, watching schools as they go through the Child Aid program. We are also collecting teacher feedback through focus groups to evaluate the effectiveness of our teacher training workshops and one-on-one coaching. What we learn will not only confirm for us that we are making a difference, but also help us continue to make adjustments and improvements as the program grows.

Look for more evaluation and program results in our 2016 Annual Report to be released later this summer.

Categories: News
05/22/2017 1:13 PM
News

New Books and New Beginnings: Kicking off the School Year with Book Delivery Day

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A group of eager boys lines up to carry boxes at the Chuimanzana school. Children’s books are extremely rare in rural Guatemalan schools so when the Child Aid book delivery truck arrives, everyone gets excited!

At the public school in the rural community of Chuimanzana, a line of eager students reaches up to a truck laden with boxes and large, wooden bookshelves. Students share laughter and shouts as they stagger under the heavy burden of boxes full of books. Their excitement reflects that of the entire Child Aid team. Book delivery day is one of the highlights of the year and marks the beginning of a new school year for Child Aid’s Reading for Life program. For the teachers and students in these communities, it will be a year filled with books, learning and new experiences.

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SLIDESHOW: Follow the journey of the new books from our office in Panajachel to the hands of eager young readers.

Distributing colorful, engaging storybooks to schools is a key part of Child Aid’s goal to make reading accessible for all students. Schools in Guatemala face a chronic shortage of age-appropriate books for their students. This is especially true in rural, indigenous areas where illiteracy and school dropout rates are highest. This year, Child Aid will donate over 20,000 books to the 68 schools participating in our Reading for Life program. This annual book distribution provides teachers and schools with the critical resources they need to teach, motivate, and inspire their students’ learning and reading.

“Before, the only books we had were a few textbooks,” says Hector Cuc Cumes, a 4th grade teacher at the San Isidro school. “These books were obligatory and students were bored by them. Now [because of the library] of books, learning is fun for them. Students are more interested in their classes now and pay more attention.”

This year also marks the first time that Child Aid has purchased the majority of the books we are providing to schools.

“In the past, Child Aid has been able to distribute books to schools thanks to large book donations we’ve received from U.S. publishers,” says Child Aid Country Director Angus Fredenburg. “But because of changes in printing technology, book donations have dropped significantly in recent years at the same time that our program is growing. So, to meet the need, we’ve had to switch to purchasing most of the books ourselves. This has been a challenge but also an opportunity to improve the quality of the books we’re providing.”

“We love book donations, but they often leave gaps in the types of books schools need since we have no control over what is donated,” adds Annie Blakeslee, Director of Pedagogy at Child Aid. “Teachers were requesting more easy books, especially since many students are not yet reading at grade level. So this year, we decided to make a change and be more strategic about the books we are providing to schools.”

To plan for this year’s book purchases, Blakeslee outlined a “target” collection of books that cover a range of subjects, genres, and reading levels and that are aligned with Child Aid’s teacher training curriculum. She says she looked for books that students would be excited to read and teachers would be excited to use in their classrooms.

“This year, no matter what grade a child is in, and whether they’re interested in dinosaurs, princesses, legos, space, or puppies, they are sure to find a book that interests them and is just at their level.  Teachers will benefit too, with a wider range of interesting stories to read to their students and non-fiction books specifically selected because of their connection to topics teachers teach,” says Blakeslee.

Now that the books are in the schools, Child Aid trainers will get to work the rest of the year to ensure that those books are be used by students and teachers every day, both in and outside of the classroom. They will lead training workshops to teach teachers new techniques for literacy instruction. Through one-on-one coaching sessions, they will be helping teachers use the new books and techniques in their classrooms successfully. And they will be working with teachers to set up school libraries, reading corners and lending programs so that students have plenty of opportunities to practice and become confident and independent readers.

Judging by the enthusiasm of teachers, students and staff, it promises to be another exciting year of literacy and learning at Child Aid. We can’t wait to see what the new year will bring!

Categories: News
03/6/2017 11:06 AM
News

Book Distribution Event Brings Smiles to Rural Communities

Igor Xoyon shows off his car stuffed with new books destined for his school, Colegio Mi Melodía, in Chimaltenango

Igor Xoyon shows off his car stuffed with new books destined for his school, Colegio Mi Melodía, in Chimaltenango.

An assortment of cars, pickup trucks and minivans snaked through the fields of the Azotea coffee farm near Antigua a few weeks ago, waiting to pick up boxes of new books.

Representatives from 19 schools, libraries and community organizations traveled from around Guatemala to Child Aid’s book warehouse for our Book Distribution Day, a yearly event that helps get books into the hands of kids in communities around Guatemala.

Last year, Child Aid distributed over 100,000 Spanish language books donated by international book distributors International Book Bank and the International Book Project. This year we are on track to surpass that number.

Many of the books are packaged and delivered to our partner schools and libraries throughout the year. The remainder are distributed through book distribution events, which are open to any community or organization that wants to participate.

This year, groups came from as far away as La Libertad, in the northern state of Peten and Rio Blanco near the western city of Quetzaltenango.

Each group is asked to pay a small fee and provide their own transportation for the books. The event kicks off with a four-hour training, which helps familiarize participants with the books they are receiving and provides instruction on cataloging and displaying books and other strategies for making the books more accessible to their patrons.

Book Distribution Day

Participants explore the selection of storybooks included in their packets during the book day orientation.

In a country where books of any kind are hard to come by, an event like this is a joyous occasion. The smiles were big and the enthusiasm contagious as groups pulled up to the warehouse and loaded boxes of books into their vehicles.

Mario Hernandez Orellana, from the small town of Parramos, was beaming when he described how the donation of over 1,500 new storybooks and non-fiction books for the the town’s municipal library would nearly double the size of their collection. “These books will be a great addition to our community,” he said.

“We try to make the day a big event,” said Child Aid Country Director John van Keppel. “It helps reinforce the feeling that these books are a valuable resource and gives participants a sense of excitement to bring them back to share with their communities.”

As the last truck pulled away, members of the Child Aid staff congratulated each other in a nearly empty warehouse after distributing over 28,000 books in just a few hours. But they won’t be able to relax for long. A new shipping container full of books arrives in Guatemala this week.

Slideshow: View more photos from the book distribution event

Categories: News
07/31/2014 8:39 AM | 0 Comments
News

Libraries Celebrate World Book Day with Community Outreach

Established by UNESCO 1995, World Book and Copyright Day celebrates literacy and commemorates the lives of some of the world’s greatest writers. For the past couple of years, the day has also provided an opportunity for Child Aid’s partner libraries to reach out to their local communities and continue their role as ambassadors of literacy.

The typical Guatemalan library is seen solely as a place for students to do their homework.  Book lending is rare and collections are very limited, so it can be struggle to get parents, younger children and the community at large to see the library as community resource that everyone can use.

To celebrate World Book Day on April 23rd, this year libraries planned and hosted a variety of activities and events that served to educate the public about their services, engage kids and parents, and promote the love of reading.

Child Aid’s library program helps librarians develop vibrant, active libraries that are educational resources centers for their communities. But even when they have created welcoming environments and great programs, many libraries face the challenge of getting the public to visit the library and use their services.

That’s why community outreach and education is an important component of Child Aid’s work with libraries. At the most recent librarian training workshop, held in late April, librarians gathered to discuss a variety of ways they can inform the public about their library’s programs and services. The librarians learned how to use signs, book displays and special activity corners to help orient new visitors and practiced strategies for guiding users to discover all the resources the library has to offer.

“In this workshop we are focusing on ways we can capture the public’s attention,” said Child Aid Library Coordinator Carlos Pos. “So when people walk into the library they immediately see it as an inviting and interesting place to be.”

But sometimes, in order to capture the public’s attention, you have to hit the streets.

So for this year’s World Book Day, libraries found a variety of creative ways to promote themselves in the community. Members of Child Aid’s Library Team attended several of the events and shared some photos and highlights from the day’s activities.

Las Canoas Bajas

The Miguel Angel Asturias library in the town of Las Canoas Bajas celebrated World Book Day for the first time with a book parade through the community. Teachers and students from pre-school to sixth grade walked through the streets carrying books they have read and signs with the names of their books and a small description. While the students walked, the school principal used a loudspeaker to promote the activity, inviting parents and community members to come out and watch the parade.

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Students walk through the streets of Las Canoas carrying posters of books they have read.

Agua Escondida

In the town of Agua Escondida, librarian María Olivia Urrea de Holl created a special reading corner on the school playground. The space was used throughout the day by students for independent reading and to hear stories read aloud. Parents were encouraged to visit the school with their younger children during recess to read books and explore the library.

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Literacy Trainer Jeremias Morales reads to a group of kids in the Reading Corner set up for World Book Day celebrations.

Tzanchaj

In preparation for World Book Day activities, students and teachers in Tzanchaj decorated their school’s multi-purpose room with book displays, reading corners, game tables and examples of student writing. Librarian Marcos Elías Tacaxoy Sapalú used the celebration as an opportunity to promote his library’s many services including reading programs, book lending, story hours, a research area, and special activity corners. The day’s activities began with welcoming remarks from the school principal followed by a reading contest. Students from all grade levels selected books from the library to read out loud. A group of judges scored the readings based on fluency and expression. Winners received a diploma and gift for their great participation.

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Students and teachers at the Tzanchaj school gather for World Book Day activities.

Pamezabal

The Pamezabal Community Library in the town of Santa Lucia Utatlán held daily read aloud sessions throughout the week. School children from around the community were invited to participate and to choose a favorite book to read at home.

Chicacao

The Chicacao library celebrated World Book Day by hosting a storytelling festival in the town park. Children from both urban and rural schools around the area were invited to come and listen to stories. In another area of the park, a “Literary Restaurant” was set up. Library staff dressed as chefs and waiters while the children had the opportunity to explore the “menu” and order books that they wanted to read.

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“Chefs” serving up books at Chicacao’s Book Restaurant.

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Students perform a skit at Chicacao’s Storytelling Festival in the town’s central park.

Categories: News
05/15/2014 9:37 AM | 1 Comments
News

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
News

‘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
News

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
News

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
News

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
News

Board Members Visit Rural Communities

Members of the Child Aid board climb into the back of a pickup truck for the last leg of their journey to visit schools in the community of Pacanal.

By: John Kin, Child Aid Board Member

Judging by the looks of surprise we got along the way, it’s probably not every day that a couple of pickup trucks filled with Americans comes bumping along through the back roads of Guatemala.

I was traveling with a group of Child Aid board members and supporters to visit four K’iche-speaking communities in a coffee growing region south of Lake Atitlán. The trip was part of our annual board retreat and an opportunity for us to visit and interact with some of the students, teachers and community members who benefit from Child Aid’s programs. We also spent time with the staff who work on the front lines of our literacy program.

To get where we needed to go, we had to use trucks. A washed out road had forced us to take a rough, alternate route that was far too treacherous for our bus. The dusty and bumpy trip was the first of many eye-opening experiences, as we realized the logistical challenges of working in remote areas.

As a board member and long-time Child Aid supporter, I had visited some of these same communities on my last trip to Guatemala two years ago. After hearing about the growth and development of the Reading for Life program since my last visit, I was eager to see for myself how things had changed.

The group talks with a teacher in the town of Pacanal to learn more about his classroom and how he works with students.

Our first stop was the small village of Pacanal. This school had just recently joined the program and had not yet received any books or teacher training from Child Aid. John Van Keppel, the Guatemala National Director, wanted us to see what typical rural classrooms are like before taking to those we’ve worked in for a year to more. “It was important to me that the group gets to see a school that hasn’t had any support,” John told me later, “because this is what the majority of schools in Guatemala are like.”

At Pacanal we met with a teacher who told us about his daily routine and showed us the handful of math and reading books he had for his many students. I was particularly struck by the stack of cards he had made out of paper to teach the sounds of letters. The teacher was obviously doing his best but had few resources to work with.

In visiting other schools we observed several teachers using materials they received and techniques they learned in Child Aid trainings. You could see a real difference in the confidence level of the teachers and their engagement and interaction with the students. A classroom in Las Canoas, with a teacher now in her third year of trainings, was filled with the joyful sound of students working together in small groups, eagerly drawing pictures, playing word games and reading a book aloud with their teacher.

Some boys from the village of Xojolá.

Another exciting stop for me was the town of Xojolá, where we visited a bright new community library that Child Aid helped build last year. The first time I visited here, the library was operating out of a small converted building that barely had enough room to hold the books. The new space featured wide open spaces for kids to work, read and interact. The whole town gathered to show off the library to our group and honored us with a traditional Guatemalan meal prepared by the community and served at a long table in the middle of the library.

It was a pleasure for me to reconnect and spend time with the Guatemalan staff who work in the villages every day. It’s their dedication and enthusiasm that is at heart of the success of the programs.

“The staff was excited to meet the board members and share what they have learned and done,” said Child Aid’s Guatemala Operations Coordinator Maritza López. “They are proud of the work they are doing with Child Aid and feel they are doing something positive for Guatemala.”

Click here to see the Slideshow.

Categories: News, Supporters In Action
03/27/2013 10:37 AM