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.
“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.”
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.”