Empowering Guatemalan Youth to Promote Literacy

Mar 4, 2011

Donations Matched on March 16

Youth rise to the expectations that we hold for them. Here at Reading Village we see it every day in our teen reading promoters. And it's one of the greatest satisfactions of my work to see them become more than they ever thought they could be. So it makes me sad when I hear of adults grossly underestimating the potential of young people.

Daniel Guzmán our In Country Director just came back from a conference in Guatemala City that was filled with teachers interested in techniques to better teach reading and writing. As he explained to those he met about the work he does, he realized that they don't believe in teens the way we do. They could not imagine that high school students would be responsible or capable enough to be successful at promotinliteracy in the ways they do in our program. So I am very appreciative of your belief in and support of our teens. Your donations are an investment in their futures. And on March 16, any donation you make on our GlobalGiving web page will be matched 30%. Mark your calendar!

And consider joining our upcoming Learning Journey in Guatemala to really get to know our teens, their work and to spread the love of reading right alongside them. Nothing fills these kids with pride more than knowing someone traveled thousands of miles to see what they do. Just a few spaces remain for the June 23-July 1 trip. For more information visit the link below.

Thank you for all you do to bring the power and joy of literacy to children.


Feb 7, 2011

Julio César Finds His Voice

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,


Nov 25, 2010

Teresa is Grateful

Teresa Morales Chumil
Teresa Morales Chumil

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.

Happy Thanksgiving,


Oct 10, 2010

A Defining Moment

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.

After the singing of the national anthem, endless speeches and what not, the daycare teacher 
unexpectedly invited Daniel to say some words. He seized the opportunity, the microphone and 
Julio César (one of our teens) to translate into Kaqchikel. The whole community got to hear about 
what it is we do from one of their own youth, and Julio had the presence of mind to introduce the 
other teens and organize the children into two groups. Antonio and Luis (first-year reading promoters, 
prepared with their books and activities) volunteered to lead the kids in story time in front of the 
whole community. (See link to photos below.)

In this spontaneous moment a spark was lit. Parents who can't read, who can't afford to have books in 
their homes, and who have never read a story to their own children, saw for the first time ever the joy 
that reading brings their children and felt the satisfaction that comes with imagining a brighter future 
for them. I have a feeling this is one of those defining moments we'll look back on one day when 
Concepcion is a thriving, reading village.

If you've not yet made a donation this year, now is an opportune time to do so! On Tuesday, 
October 12, GlobalGiving will begin matching donations made to Reading Village made only from 
their website. (See link below.) Donations in the range of $10-$499 will be matched 30%, $500-$999 at 40% and 
$1,000-$2,500 at 50%. There are limited matching funds available so the sooner after 12:01 am 
Eastern on the 12th you make your donation the better. The matching opportunity runs through 
October 21st, as long as funds last.

Thank you for all you do to bring the power of literacy to children,

Linda Smith
Founder and Director
Reading Village


Sep 1, 2010

More of a Good Thing

Last month we convened a group of amazing people with decades of experience in Guatemala, education, leadership development and literacy to help us take the good curriculum we developed for training our teen reading promoters and make it excellent. 

This curriculum will be part of a training manual (funded by a grant from the Tecovas Family Foundation) that will enable us to hire more community coordinators and expand to more and more communities. Our vision is to have 480 reading promoters in over 30 communities reaching 480,000 children by 2020. 

And expansion is already underway! Daniel Guzmán, our Program Coordinator, is currently in the community of Pujujil (Poo-hoo-HEEL) holding a meeting with community leaders and interested teens as he recruits a new crop of reading promoters. See here (http://www.readingvillage.org/2010/08/index.html) for a two-minute video of Daniel as he eloquently describes his heart-felt vision of our work with the children in his country. 

There are several ways you can help us bring the power of literacy to more children. We need donations to buy books and materials for Pujujil, for scholarships for the new reading promoters and for their training.

In addition to donating you can help in the following ways:

1. Participate in 100 Book Day on November 27th (http://www.readingvillage.org/100-book-day.html).

2. Join and/or promote our Learning Journey to Guatemala, Nov 20-28 (http://www.readingvillage.org/learningjourney.html) 

3. Bring Light Up Literacy to your synagogue for Hanukkah this year (http://www.readingvillage.org/light-up-literacy.html).

4. Bring Literacy for Lent to your church next year (http://www.readingvillage.org/literacy-for-lent.html)

Thank you for all you do to bring the power of literacy to children,


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Project Leader

Linda Smith

Boulder, CO United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Empowering Guatemalan Youth to Promote Literacy