Transforming Community Libraries
In a town or village where children’s books are rare, even the smallest library can have a transformative effect. For over 17 years, we have helped local organizations and indigenous communities in Guatemala create and improve libraries for children. Our work has taught us that buildings and books alone are not enough to create communities of readers. Instead, we tackle the problem in two ways: by building the capacity of local people to create and maintain highly functioning libraries, and by helping these libraries become dynamic hubs for reading promotion and literacy education.
When we set out to create a vibrant library, we look first at the material needs of the location. Reading materials are always rare, so we provide hundreds of high-quality children’s books, including storybooks, textbooks and reference books. We supply locally purchased computers with custom cataloging programs that allow children to look up
books easily and learn the basics of research. We hire local carpenters to build tables, chairs and bookshelves designed to make books accessible to kids. On the rare occasion when a community lacks a usable building for a library, we will help fund the construction of a new one.
We believe a library is successful if it serves as a hub for literacy within its community. The key to this is a well-trained librarian. Therefore, librarian training plays a pivotal role in our Reading for Life program. Through group and individualized sessions, we help librarians learn everything they need know to run a small library. Each librarian in our program attends up to six full-day workshops per year. Child Aid literacy staff also visit our partner libraries on a regular basis to provide individualized training and assistance. In many communities, librarians also attend our teacher training sessions, which help them improve and hone teaching skills. In the end, our partner librarians become true catalysts for literacy in their communities.
Creating Hubs for Literacy
Child Aid–trained librarians promote reading within and around their communities. They create book-lending programs so that children can take books home to their parents and siblings. (In the communities where we work, most parents are unable to read.) They establish out-of-school reading programs that engage children in books and reading activities during Guatemala’s three-month school break. In close cooperation with Child Aid staff, librarians work in schools to foster an active link between the library and local teachers. They also operate our Books to Villages program, which turns their libraries into mini-distribution centers that send rotating boxes of books to remote schools that have no other access to reading materials.