I remember vividly just two years ago our first meeting ever with the first teen reading promoters in Concepcion. Julio Cesar's beet-red face belied his embarrassment at having to crow like a rooster whenever it came up in a story being read aloud. It was so challenging for him I wondered to myself if he'd ever be capable of reading a story in front of a group of children.
In contrast with last Sunday...With no advance notice, I asked the group of teens to take twenty minutes to organize themselves into a schedule of reading activities they would lead in the next two weeks. I watched with delight as Julio took the lead and got the job done. He did this with such self-confidence, grace and effortlessness it brought tears to my eyes. (Enjoy photos from Sunday's activities here.)
There was actually a moment in the meeting when I had to invite Julio and the other teens with experience to hold back a bit and allow some space for others to participate. These, the kids for whom it felt like pulling teeth to get them to say anything just two years ago.
They are coming into their own, it is a beautiful thing to witness, and I am honored and delighted to be a part of it. And now hundreds of children are discovering the joy of reading as a result. Thank you for all you do to help make this possible.
Twice a year we invite a small group of people to join us on a Learning Journey in Guatemala to really get to know our teens, their work and to spread the love of reading right alongside them. The dates for the next trip are June 23-July 1 and spaces are going fast. For more information visit www.readingvillage.org/learningjourney.
I hope you'll join us,
I'm in Guatemala interviewing teens for our reading promoter program. It's one of my favorite things to do because these youth inspire me so much. Take Teresa Morales Chumil, for example. She is 15, the oldest of four, and her family owns no land so they work as day laborers on someone else's land. Teresa's family of six ekes out a living on $120 a month; that's less than a dollar a day per person.
Her parents never attended school and cannot read or write. When I ask Teresa what her parents tell her about the importance of education she says her father tells her, "You have to fight to study." This phrase stops cold in my heart. It's true. Teresa and other impoverished youth here fight: struggle, sacrifice, toil and scrape enough together to pay for public school registration, monthly fees, transportation, uniforms, books, supplies and the like. What should be a right for every child is a fight for many. And in these communities where only 25% of children make it to the sixth grade, it's a fight that most kids lose.
Despite all the barriers in front of Teresa she has made it to middle school and has set her sites on college! This Thanksgiving I am grateful that Reading Village can offer her the opportunity to stay in school. And I am thankful for your generosity toward Reading Village that makes it possible.
If you have not made a donation yet this year, please know that gifts of all sizes have an immediate impact on our teens' lives and the children they read to.
For you and me, who love to read, it's hard to imagine an entire country where reading is not much valued and not regularly enjoyed. But this is the case in Guatemala. A colleague once heard it reported that of the Guatemalans who can read only 1% had read anything for pleasure that year. So imagine my delight at what happened the other day...On October 1st Guatemala celebrated Día del Niño (Children's Day), and Daniel Guzmán our In-Country Coordinator and some of our teen reading promoters made their way to Concepcion's central plaza with the rest of the community to celebrate. And they each brought a book along...just in case.