Creating Girl Readers in Guatemala

Jul 28, 2011

Youngest reader ever in her village

Elena is reading at age four in Guatemala
Elena is reading at age four in Guatemala

Elena is 4 and lives in a wholly indigenous village in rural Guatemala. Xolsacmalja, Totonicapan. Elena was two when the Riecken library opened in the village and she has visited every day since its opening as her aunt is the president of the board who oversees the library. Because of the various library programs Elena (who is bi-lingual speaking both Quiche and Spanish) is now starting to read at age 4 and is the youngest known reader in her village. At a result it is highly likely that Elena will gain some of the advantages of a pre-school program in the developed world assuring her educational success and giving her opportunities that did not exist even one generation before.

Elena likes the iPad too.
Elena likes the iPad too.


Feb 18, 2011

Great impact in girls in San Carlos Sija


Juliana is a six year old girl who belongs to the K’iche’ ethnic group and whose life has been positively impacted by the library in San Carlos Sija, Quetzaltenango.  Her parents are farmers and sell their products in the local market, where they spend most of the daytime.  While her parents are working she spends time at the Library, sometimes throughout the day, where she can be comfortable and participate in a variety of different children’s activities.  Only on rare occasions can she not be found at the Library, usually when she is helping out her parents with farming tasks or house chores.  But when she is at the Library, Juliana expresses that she is happy; she participates proactively on her own will, and enjoys children’s books a lot!

The community Library is called “Fuente de sabiduría”, which means “Fountain of wisdom” and a high percentage of women, including small girls, teenagers and adults attend daily.  A girl’s book club has been formed at the Library aiming to improve their reading and writing skills, their ability to talk in public and to listen, and to develop their critical thinking.  Besides the regularly scheduled reading programs, they participate in activities that promote the conservation of local traditions, such as traditional weaving or the cooking of unique local foods using fresh and nutritive ingredients.

All these activities programmed through the Library allows the community, especially girls, to become more informed and engaged in subjects like personal hygiene, children’s rights, values and principles, cultural identity, and others which are important for personal development.  Thank you for believing in our project and supporting girls like Juliana, whom, without the Library, would have less chances of a brighter future.


Oct 18, 2010

Successful alliance with local girl´s school


One of the communities in the library network, named “Nuevo Amanecer”, which means “New Sunrise”, located in Cabricán, Quetzaltenango, has created an alliance with a local school called La Asunción that serves more than 100 indigenous girls.  This alliance consists in supporting the school in activities that enhance the participation of these girls in socio-cultural activities, as well as those that improve their Spanish vocabulary, without disregarding their native language, which is Mam.  These activities at the community library include interactive story reading hours, artistic contests in their native language, workshops about Mayan epigraphy and book clubs.

Through this program these young girls have the chance to become more involved in their community, while they develop their reading habit and writing skills.  This has also helped them to understand better the use of computers.

Like Apsin Lineth López, a 12 years old girl, said “ever since I started coming to the library I have read books about tales and stories, history, and this has helped me with my studies and with my teachers.  It has also helped me improve my writing and the computer use.  I have always liked to come to the library because I like to learn new things, to see new books and other things, thank you”.

While the community library keeps attracting more children to visit and improve their education, we are trying to find ways to have a more stable internet connection and more computers to attend the increasing number of children and teenagers looking for our support.  Thanks a lot for yours! 

Jul 16, 2010

Girls learning to read and write in Maya language!

Girls learning to read and write in Maya language
Girls learning to read and write in Maya language

In the rural community of Chiché in the western highlands of Guatemala, the Riecken community library—named by the town “Open Windows to the Future”—designed a program with weekly activities called “The Little School for K’iche Reading and Writing”. The program’s aim is to prepare indigenous Maya girls in reading and writing skills in their native language, K’iche, while at the same time inspiring them to discover the magical worlds that reading opens the door to, and hence grow a love for reading for pleasure.

Between 11 and 15 girls participate in each activity, which currently is being led by Ana Maria Riquiac, a college student from the same community who is getting her degree in Social Work. In the coming weeks a group of bilingual teachers in Chiché will take on the responsibilities for implementing the activities, and within a few months, the local teachers will have full responsibility for its implementation. Their participation teaching girls the finer points of reading and writing K’iche is only one part of a project to use the library as a station for engaging children through dynamic activities promoting Mayan culture.

Mar 22, 2010

Postcard from The Riecken Foundation in Guatemala

In February, six GlobalGiving donors traveled to Guatemala for a week of exploration, cultural submersion, and welcomed visits to four GlobalGiving projects. One of these projects is run by The Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation, which focuses on teaching girls how to read by involving parents and hosting educational activities at 11 community-managed libraries.

After a short boat ride across Lake Atitlan, we arrived at the dock of the tiny, immaculate town of San Juan la Laguna. Tuc-tucs transported our group up the steep hill to the town center to visit the final project on our itinerary – Creating Girl Readers in Guatemala, run by the US-based Riecken Foundation. The Riecken Foundation’s mission is to provide poor communities in Central America not just with libraries, but with access to information. However, the challenging US economic climate and diminished investments over the past several years have forced the Foundation to cut back significantly on its funding of these libraries; donors through GlobalGiving are now helping to diversify the project’s sources of financial support.

The difference between what we expected – a quiet, darkened space filled with books and shhh-shing librarians – and what we experienced – a lively, bustling center of community activity – could not have been more striking! We met Israel, the center’s director, and Olga, the librarian. Books did line the walls, but in addition, computers, games, and important information about community events and activities were present. Kids of all ages were engaged in different activities – studying, playing chess, and using the computers. We participated in a fun story hour designed just for young girls, which started with singing and movement activities, then the reading of a story about “La Mariposa” (The Butterfly) in both Spanish and Quiché, and finally, an arts and crafts activity, making our own butterflies. The space was clean, bright, and well-equipped, with colorful murals and characters from the Mayan alphabet painted on the walls. We all agreed that “lib rary” was a vast understatement of the space and important role in the community played by this center.

To check out their project page go to:

And just if you’re curious about the rest of the trip and where we headed after The Riecken Foundation:

“Almost every day in Guatemala brought us to projects which are doing important work for the people of Guatemala. This is a country devastated by decades of war, which suffers all of the consequences of crushing poverty, especially in the rural areas. Although I often felt disheartened to learn of the high rates of child malnutrition and low rates of education, projects like WINGS, which promotes family planning through education and improving women's health; the vocational school being built from recycled tires and plastic bottles by Long Way Home; and the community-run lending libraries facilitated by the Riecken Foundation, were terrifically uplifting. We repeatedly met enthusiastic people committed to doing good for the poor of Guatemala in culturally sensitive ways, which was the perfect antidote to the feeling of sadness or hopelessness that comes from hearing bleak statistics and seeing people living with so little.”

To check out the other visited projects go to:

WINGS – Long Way Home – Pueblo a Pueblo –

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?
Support another project run by The Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation, Inc. that needs your help, such as:

Project Leader

William Cartwright

Antigua, Sacatepequez Guatemala

Where is this project located?

Map of Creating Girl Readers in Guatemala