Although and early childhood development reading program began in the libraries in 2007, in 2013 a child nutrition component was launched and offered as a preschool educational option to parents. The program was piloted in 15 community libraries:
Guatemala (Xolsacmaljá, Cabricán, Huitán, San Juan Chamelco, and La Libertad), and in Honduras (San Lucas, San Luis, El Porvenir, San Jerónimo, Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Copán Ruinas, Dulce Nombre, El Níspero, San Juan Planes, and Yorito).
This early childhood development program that links reading and nutrition is enabling communities to ward off health problems and malnutrition, strengthen the mother-child emotional bond, and guide, train and educate parents or children´s caretakers to ensure children's continuous and ongoing development.
Recently we had the benefit of a graduate student from the United States evaluating our existing early childhood development and nutrition program as part of her Master's thesis. Not only did she participate in sessions she also interviewed many of the mothers privately. The feedback was very positive. The only complaint was that sessions were not more frequent. In a perfect world we would, of course, like to offer such sessions on a daily basis.
All of the mothers reported positive changes in their children: they talked more, they asked more questions, interacted more with other children, showed interest in books and visiting the library. In addition, the mothers expressed their gratitude for the nutritional information and indicated that they were seeing that their children received adequate protein and vegetables.
My wish for all of our donors is that you could see the gratitude in the eyes of the mothers of these children. Many are not literate themselves and, like mothers everywhere, hope for more for their children. With your ongoing support we can continue to give these mothers hope that their children will succeed as students by getting them started as soon as possible. Gracias y saludos.
Very recently, under the very able leadership of our early dhildhood development expert, Alba Estrada, from Quiche, El Quiche, Guatemala conducted training sessions for our librarians in both Guatemala and Honduras. The program is being expanded to five communities in Guatemala and ten in Honduras and, with your ongling support, we hope to expand the program to all 65 libraries. There is no question that pre-literacy activities are crucial to later educational success and there is no question that the nutritional information that is disseminated to the familes is crucial in countries with very high rates of malnutrition. When asked to report of their experiences after a number of years of attending our first pilot program in Quiche most of the mothers mention first the change in their children after they learned about the need for a varied diet including protein and vegetables.
Young children should be lively and engaged in all the activities of an early childhood development program rather than listless and inattentive. With your help we will be able to expand this program throughout the network of 65 communities that we currently serve. Thank you again for your ongoing support.
In July of 2013 Yaelle Stempfelet who is working on a Master's degree in International Education at the University of Massachusetts with a specialty in early childhood development was retained to evaluate our existing pilot project. Yaelle, who is tri-lingual (English, French and Spanish) spent five years as the director of a bi-lingual Montesorri pre-school in Antigua, Guatemala. As research for her Master's thesis Yaelle visited the pilot project in Quiche on a regular basis and evaluated the curriculum and also interviewed the mothers to gain feedback on the existing program.
Yaelle, who expected to have to develop the curriculum, was pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the work that Alba has done. In interviewing the mothers the recurring theme was "more, more, more." Some of the moms also had good suggestions for additions to the program and most emphasized the importance of the nutritional information. It was clear that the moms were very hungry for information on how to improve the lives and opportunities for their children.
With your help we will be able to add to Alba's program and expand it to four other libraries in our network.
In just a few weeks a young woman who is pursuing her Master's degree at the University of Massachusetts in international education with a focus on early childhood development will be headed to Guatemala where she is going to evaluate our existing program and do a proposal for expanding the program through the Riecken network of 64 libraries. Mothers are going to be interviewed and children tested in several communities to determine the effectiveness of the existing program and to help design an ongoing program. We already know that the mothers are eager to have nutritional information. Like mothers everywhere they would like to do what is best for their children but often do not have the necessary information. Often the mothers are illiterate which severely limits their access to nutritional information. We are very hopeful that you will continue to contribute to this very worthy project so that soon we might have thousands of children enrolled.
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