Dec 18, 2020

Are we still reading in 2021?

The current pandemic has highlighted social inequality, increasing the vulnerability of those groups that already live at extreme levels of exclusion. And this same pandemic has broken the existing social cohesion, making it more vulnerable to those who already were, with a closed education system and a collapsed health system. The state of alarm for the pandemic continues and in the face of a landscape of reopening services and economic revival in most communities, libraries need to strengthen their capacities, reactivate their programs especially towards those groups that have undoubtedly been most affected by confinement: children and young people who have not been able to follow their classes, who are at risk of dropout and because of the precariousness of the family economy , affected by the confinement measures established before the pandemic.

The Riecken Foundation believes that reading to children from an early age (0-5 years), stimulates the mind, develops language, and builds a base to ensure the success of reading in the future. The parents are childrens’ first teachers; so they need to be provided with tools and activities they can do with their families to promote reading at an early age and develop a reading habit that will continue throughout life.  Riecken’s programs are aimed develop language skills, vocabulary, pre-reading, as well as creating positive experiences with books. Parents also learn techniques and that they practice with their children.  Essentially, the community libraries promote six pre-reading skills that mother, father and baby can develop from birth:

  • Motivation to Books: sparking the interest in children to enjoy books, with the purpose of promoting an approach to them.
  • Vocabulary: in the first week of life, the baby can vocalize at the same time that mother does.
  • Becoming familiar with the writing: engage the children with reading, use exercises that show drawings, shapes, people, and animals, not only with figures but with written words.
  • Knowledge of sounds: help children acquire the ability to hear and play with sounds.
  • Narrative skills: librarians can relate stories and tales to children and help develop the skills in reading readiness.
  • Letter knowledge: the children begin to learn their first letters.

A modern library is a community development vehicle. A community library is a center for local citizens to meet and discuss local issues, a place to identify problems and resolve them locally. The Riecken libraries are where youth go to become leaders in the fabric of local communities. All of the books, furniture, computers, materials, and even the building itself are just tools to provide open and free access to information for local citizens to identify and resolve local community development issues, and engage impoverished, at-risk youth in shaping the future for themselves, their neighbors, and their families.

All of the activities conducted at the library promote innovative methods and/or new technologies that are not typical in Guatemala, such a developing critical thinking skills, financial transparency and free access to computers/internet, as well as contributing to the advancement of women and girls through women’s business skills training, girls’ reading clubs, and early childhood development/nutrition classes for new mothers.

Recognizing its unique approach to education, programming and community engagement, last year Riecken was selected by the Library of Congress 2019 Literacy Award Program as a Best Practice Honoree for achievement in the promotion of literacy and in the development of innovative methods and effective practices in the field of library and information science.

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Dec 18, 2020

2021, a new beginning for Community Libraries

Girl at library
Girl at library

Since March 2020, and because of the alarm status generated by the coronavirus, the different rural communities of Honduras and Guatemala have been forced to give a different response to this new reality. Community library responses have been diverse and have been able to adapt to the needs of the moment: many have supported local governments in gathering information from vulnerable people to create food aid records (Guacamaya, Honduras), some have adapted their facilities as triage centers for the detection of potentially infected people (Gualala, Honduras), others have supported the packaging and distribution of food for vulnerable households (Freedom , Honduras), organizing awareness campaigns and information about the virus and its forms of contagion (San Juan Chamelco, Alta Verapaz); most have promoted book lending to domain and have released the WIFI signal from their internet (those with an internet connection) so that people can connect.

The current pandemic has highlighted social inequality, increasing the vulnerability of those groups that already live at extreme levels of exclusion. And this same pandemic has broken the existing social cohesion, making it more vulnerable to those who already were, with a closed education system and a collapsed health system. The state of alarm for the pandemic continues and in the face of a landscape of reopening services and economic revival in most communities, libraries need to strengthen their capacities, reactivate their programs especially towards those groups that have undoubtedly been most affected by confinement: children and young people who have not been able to follow their classes, who are at risk of dropout and because of the precariousness of the family economy , affected by the confinement measures established before the pandemic.

Riecken believes that the single most effective way to promote the spirit of discovery and curiosity is through the promotion and enjoyment of reading. People, both young and old, who possess the spirit of discovery, have the ability to try new things and projects, and take part in the social life of their communities. Through books, magazines, the internet, and group gatherings and programs, people can find solutions to problems, find answers to questions, and encourage new ideas and creativity. Reading leads to discovery and discovery leads to prosperity.

Unlike traditional Central American public or municipal libraries, Riecken libraries are independent, sustainable pillars of local communities, often second only in the village’s stature and importance to the local school and municipality offices. Riecken libraries are community-owned and managed by volunteer citizen boards, elected by the entire community. Despite outside support and financing from Riecken and the municipal governments, decision making and policy are directed by the community itself. The libraries are places of civic engagement, where local issues are analyzed and discussed, and local solutions are identified and resolved together as a community. Examples of library-initiated projects for the communities include women’s entrepreneurship training, girl readers’ clubs, youth leadership clubs, and the development of local teacher skills using the library as a base.

For its users, Riecken community libraries spark a spirit of discovery and a love of reading.  Equipped with high-quality books and new technology, the libraries help pull isolated communities into the bigger world, where they can benefit from globalization and contribute to it. Riecken believes that knowledge is the currency of the 21st century, and Guatemalan citizens need a partner to acquire that knowledge. American-inspired democracy and prosperity require informed populations, and libraries are uniquely positioned to empower people by enabling them to access and use information to build their futures. 

2020 has been a very difficult year to overcome but 2021 will be a year in which Riecken Community Libraries will continue to work to provide answers to the needs demanded by the new reality marked by coronavirus.

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Aug 25, 2020

To cultivate solidarity in times of quarantine

Given the measures decreed by the government, the community library "Nueva Visión" in La Guacamaya (EL Progreso, Yoro) offers as "emotional therapy for stress and anxiety" that the confinement of the quarantine generates. The Community Library has started a garden which It is aimed at promoting crops that come to help the food crisis and cultivate solidarity.

The community of La Guacamaya, is located south of the city of El Progreso (Yoro, Honduras). It has approximately 1600 families, in which 6 out of 10 live in conditions of extreme poverty, including single mothers, older adults, disintegrated families, and at least 200 families have a relative with a disability. 

Given the need what it entails to be in quarantine, the Library volunteer teams organized with the purpose of promoting solidarity. Also due to this lack of food, women leaders from 11 neighborhoods organized a committee to manage humanitarian aid. mainly families that are in food crisis.

This is how this experience in the community, organized youth and women has been active, taking into account biosecurity measures. Some programs that have been developed due to the current situation of pandemic: reading at home, the pot of sharing; which is about cooking the food grown from the library gardens to their homes.

More than 30 families are now planting from their own possibilities in their homes and youth learn a life experience that has allowed them to discover the importance of cultivating the land, and to know that there are ways of cultivation more ecological. 

The Riecken model library let community answers in moments of crises: this is why libraries have always been identified as a fundamental pillar within the community since its beginning, for the support it provides at all times to families, youth and children in general.

 With support from USAID/ASHA (American Schools and Hospitals Abroad) to upgrade books, technology and furniture, and building renovations, Riecken community libraries will continue to help transform a single building block -- a community library with free computers, internet, print resources and programs -- into a springboard for democracy building, local leadership development, women’s empowerment, civic engagement and social justice in Honduras and Guatemala. Riecken community Libraries are a demonstration and promotion American principles of inclusiveness and equality, civic engagement, free expression and independent inquiry. Together with the USAID / ASHA program, we will give a concrete response to promote community cohesion, so damaged by the current situation.

We are proud to see the flexibility of the Riecken Community Library sustainability model in action, allowing for relevant local response to this worldwide calamity.  

Riecken Community Libraries are a social platform and an essential space for the social cohesion present in 65 communities in Honduras and Guatemala.

 

Learn more about the work of the Riecken Foundation and its network of community libraries in Honduras.

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