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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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

‘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

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
Stories From Guatemala

Librarians Get a New Tool for Book Lending

Agua Escondida Library

Agua Escondida Librarian Clara Luz Mox Umul helps students check out books from the library.

When Child Aid Country Director John van Keppel and Library Coordinator Carlos Pos visited the library at the public school in Agua Escondida earlier this month, they were thrilled to see the librarian, Clara Luz Mox Umul, and a group of students huddled around a small plastic box.  They were using a new checkout system, introduced at a Child Aid librarian training just a few weeks earlier and designed to help promote and facilitate book lending at our partner libraries.

“It’s great to see Clara using the box already and that kids are checking out books,” commented van Keppel as he flipped through the student cards, filled with the names of books they had borrowed. “It’s a simple tool, but one that will hopefully help us get more books in the hands of kids.”

Child Aid’s work with libraries is based on the belief that the more kids have access to books the more opportunities they will have to read and learn. We focus on creating libraries that are resources for literacy in their schools and communities by providing hundreds of high-quality children’s books, including story books, textbooks and reference books.

Library Coordinator Carlos Paz holds up an example of the library's new lending cards.

Library Coordinator Carlos Pos holds up an example of the library’s new lending cards.

But even with these additional resources, there can be other barriers. For example, because books in these communities are an expensive and rare resource, rural libraries can be reluctant to lend them out and do not have a reliable circulation system for lending to students. Books can sit on shelves – sometimes behind lock and key – and be inaccessible to readers.

In Child Aid’s librarian trainings, librarians like Clara learn skills to help them make their libraries more accessible to the community. They learn how to transform their libraries into welcoming environments, run programs and activities that promote literacy, and set up systems to lend books to schools, students and community members.

But earlier this year, van Keppel and the Library Development team noticed that the partner libraries were not checking out books to students as much as they had hoped.

“Every library we work with does lending a bit differently,” says van Keppel, “and many do not do it very well.”

A page from the a library ledger book

A page from the a library ledger book

Librarians often use a ledger book, writing down each book and its due date chronologically as it is checked out. The process is laborious and makes it difficult to keep track of when books are due and which books are overdue.

“We realized that if we wanted to promote lending, we needed to introduce a system that was easy to use and would be consistent across all our partner libraries.”

So Pos and the rest of the Child Aid staff set to work designing a simple checkout system that would be cheap to set up and easy for librarians to implement. Now every student has a card with their book titles and due dates recorded on a single page. Overdue cards go into a red folder for tracking and reminders, making it easier for librarians to manage their inventories and prevent losses.

“It seems to be working well so far,” says Pos. “I have visited three or four other libraries that have already implemented the lending system. We’ll continue to follow-up with the librarians and make improvements as we go along.”

Van Keppel hopes that having all the libraries on a single system will allow Child Aid’s staff to provide better support to librarians and make lending a routine part of the libraries’ work. It may also set the stage for future improvements such as tracking usage and reading habits of students or creating a digitized checkout system.

It is one of Child Aid’s many small innovations that are helping overcome barriers to literacy in these rural communities and giving students access to the books they need to learn and grow.

Categories: Stories From Guatemala
09/2/2013 11:17 AM | 1 Comments