Asturias Academy Library: Reading for Change

by Colegio Miguel Angel Asturias

Dear friends of MAAA,

I want to thank you all for your continued support. In May, we greeted a group of 13 participants from the group Librarians Without Borders. They have supported us since day one, and we certainly would not have been able to build this library without them. A few of the members, were last at the school in 2010, when the library was still under construction, so they had the opportunity to see all of their hard work come full circle. 

We began our journey visiting the editorial Piedra Santa in Guatemala City, where we went through a tour of the publishing company that has a long standing relationship with Asturias and a storied history of providing quality education materials in Guatemala. With money that they raised through their organization, LWB purchased over 61 books in both English, Spanish, and K'iche. They also brought with them 40 books that they collected prior to the trip, which made for a donation of  101 books to our library! It was quite an addition to our collection!

After arriving in Xela, the LWB team worked with our librarians Nicholas Newlin and Dorita Dominguez to catalog the new books, reorganize the existing collection, update our online catalog, and tend to old books in need of repair. In the middle of the week, the group organized a "Library Day", and set up various stations with activities like a literary scavenger hunt, sharades, poster making and book repair stations. It was a big success, both for the group and the students and really inspired alot of excitement and appreciation for the library.

We want to thank all members of the Librarians Without Borders group for all of their hard work during this week and throughout the year. Both the members who participated in the trip, contributed with logistics planning, and helped with fundraising, this magnificent and unique library that we consider the jewel of our Colegio would not have been possible without your help and dedication to the Reading for Change project. Now, there is always room for improvement. Please continue to support the project and show your support. We can always use more books and materials to keep our library growing and expand the impact that it has for the students, their families and the surrounding community. Thank you all once again for all of your love and continued support.

All the best,

Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano

Meeting in the Library!
Meeting in the Library!


University of Florida Volunteers with students
University of Florida Volunteers with students

We began the 2012 school year with some exciting news from the Reading for change campaign. We have two new librarians, Nicholas Newlin from Washington, D.C., and Dorita Dominguez from right here in Quetzaltenango. They are both here on grants from Librarians Without Borders, who will be sending a group of volunteers to Quetzaltenango at the beginning of may to volunteer at in the library.

Nicholas is coming off a 8 year stint at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. We feel blessed that he will be sharing his experience gained from working in the largest library in the world. He will surely have some insights that will help us manage our much smaller collection. Nicholas has been working using the skills he developed at the Library of Congress to create a cataloging system for us that will help us organize our collection, which thanks to generous support from our donors has grown to over 2,500 books! He will also be working with Jorge to develop a borrowing system for the library, so that students and their families may check books out of the library and take them hope to read. We will be using funds from the project to make library cards for the students. In addition to giving the students more time to indulge in reading their favorite books, the borrowing system hopes to teach important lessons of accountability that will be integrated with the educational mission at the Colegio.

Dorita has been in charge of developing the lecture program in the library. She reads to students of all ages during their free time, and helps to instill pride and excitement. The lecture program focusing on teaching analytical reading and critical thinking skills that are crucial to the educational development of our students and are consistent with the schools mission of initiating a change in Guatemalan society.

I want to thank everyone who has been supporting the project thus far. We have already been able to acheive so much, and have done so through the mantra that every little bit makes a substantial difference for children at the Colegio and their families. Please continue to support the Reading for Change campaign as we work to expand our collection and instill a thirst for reading in each and everyone of our students. Thank you!!!!!


Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano

Director of Development

Library 2011
Library 2011

Dear Friends,

It's December and the temperatures in Guatemala are descending and without heating in the houses, the cold at night becomes unbearable, but fortunately it does not snow as in the United States. It is good that the school year is finished, because the afternoons are very windy.

The school year in Guatemala begins in January and ends in October; right now we are on Winter Vacation!! Since classes ended our work has become more administrative. It's really sad not to hear the voices of children and their steps through the corridors. Although the school feels a bit empty at this time, we have had time to do some repairs on our building.

We start by cleaning each of the classes and fix some of the furniture that was in bad condition. Now we are painting the building, this work is very tired and bored. I felt happy to know that, Dora, a teacher who worked with us a few years ago decided to help in our library.  She, unfortunately, has retired but has a grandson is studying with us in first degree.

A few weeks ago, while we were having a rest after a long day of painting, finally I had the opportunity to talk with Dorita. I was impressed by her stories and all the experience she acquired during all of those years teaching. She told me that never, during the whole time she worked with children, saw the passion transmitted by his grandson when he talks about books. She admitted that the passion of his grandson motivated her, along with our ideals, to return and work with us. Although she retired is a person with great enthusiasm and ideas. As we talked she told me that one of the things she was looking forward was to sit in the rocking chair and read to the younger children. I found very interesting that she felt anxious to read to the children, because in Guatemala is not normal for adults to read to children or parents read bedtime stories their children. I am glad to know that we have awakened her interest of reading to her grandson, something she did not do with her children. We hope it becomes a string.

It's really amazing the impact we have on our students and their families. Dora is a wonderful person who has returned to, as she says "put her grain of sand in helping to cultivate the reading culture in our country."

Although we are going to have Dora´s help, excellent as a literacy teacher, she does not have experience as a librarian. She need a little help to learn, therefore we need an experienced librarian to help train this wonderful teacher. We hope in a future to have this help so we can open our doors for the whole community and during vacations. Also we need more books of all kinds for our different readers.

If you have ever felt the desire to help grow a love of reading in our students, financial assistance would be a great opportunity to take another step toward that goal! With just ten dollars that are donated to us is enough to buy a book for our library. As always, thank you for the support you offer us at the Academy, and particularly our students.


Discussion in the library
Discussion in the library

Right now we are in the third semester. Years ago our first grade students, by this time of the year, they have had a few weeks to have met most of the alphabet and had fun reading the labels on the streets. Now it's different, since more than three months, students do not read signs; they read short books and used their imagination. These thanks to the space, the kind of books we have and the environmental in our library.

I am used to visits the classrooms regularly. In one of my visits to the students in first grade I saw that there was a lot of excitement and it seems to me like they were around two students that were arguing, as I approached, they did not gave importance to me, until, Elsy Tepe, whispered to those around her "The director is here." Then gradually they began to be silent and only were the words of the two students who were in the middle. I understood that they were playing to change the ending of the story that had just read in the library.

In my country this is not common, students in first grade, after nine months of study, they are just trying to remember the sounds of letters and associated with individual words, but in our school, thanks to the library and reading program, they are changing. Now they are students who read complete stories and as a result are developing a great imagination.

In a country where libraries are almost nonexistent and the few libraries’ that exist only have scientist books, we are making a difference. You can contribute to this change that we are making in children aged 6 years. Our school year ends on October 15 and we are planning to keep the library open during the holidays. We are currently working with 300 students and, if we have the budget for the salary of a librarian full time, next school year we want to open the library to the community 


What do you think? , Would like to support this change?



Jorge Chojolán

Founder Asturias Academy

Reading "Magic Tree House"!
Reading "Magic Tree House"!

Hi everyone,

We cannot believe it is already June and we have just finished our second quarter exams! We have had quite an exciting May, from Mother’s Day and our Antigua field trip, and even an exciting early June, with the arrival of two new volunteers and midterm week. On that last point, the students are certainly glad to be done with the exams!

We would like to thank you for your continued support of our students and our mission, as well as to take the time to update you on several of our other major projects. At this time last year, we were in the midst of construction on the first community library in the region. Well, we are now proud to state that we are largely finished thanks to your donations and our volunteers that have helped us along the way.

Many friends from all over the place helped us construct the space, install the new bookcases and in general, build the frame for our beautiful library.

More friends, from Illinois State University, Carleton University, University of Florida, and Librarians Without Borders later helped us catalogue and shelve the books.

Now, several months later, we are proud to introduce our new library. We are equally proud to say that our students have become enthralled with reading and have made vast improvements in their abilities.

As one specific example, when asked what he liked to do for fun, nine-year-old Jorge responded, “I like playing soccer, but I also like going up to the library; I think I like them both equally.”

The library has also become a great place for volunteers and students to spend time together one-on-one, something to which many of our students do not readily have access at home. By reading together aloud, we are able to work on pronunciation, and are even asked for the English equivalent of certain words!

In addition to the anecdotal evidence of our students’ blossoming love of reading, we have also documented significant improvements in reading levels, as reading speeds for 3rd-6th grades have increased 16-23% this year. Steve Mullaney our head librarian, states, “Students have really taken to the library at the Asturias Academy. In January students struggled with sticking with a book.  Reading more than a few pages was hard because folks were not used to it. Now, in June, every student has finished multiple novels. However, one of the best success stories comes from 3rd grade. In January only two kids were reading chapter books and a third of the class needed remedial reading help. Now, in June, everyone is reading chapter books and all of the students receiving remedial help have graduated to independent reading.”

Again, we would like to thank your for your continued support of the Colegio Miguel Angel Asturias, as without you, none of this would have been possible. If you are willing to further your support, the only way to further solidify our students’ new-found habit is to keep their interest by offering new stories for them to enjoy. Thus, any donation you could offer would be most appreciative. is again allowing us to further amplify this process by matching 30% of every donation that is made to our organization online on JUNE 15th, 2011, USING THIS AND ONLY THIS LINK: 

Therefore, after the administrative fees, a $10 donation becomes $13, which is nearly enough to purchase one book for our library, creating the opportunity to further our students’ imaginations.

Warmest wishes for a happy and healthy summer!

The Asturias Academy


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Organization Information

Colegio Miguel Angel Asturias

Location: Quetzaltenango, PA - Guatemala
Colegio Miguel Angel Asturias
Project Leader:
Jorge Chojolan
Quetzaltenango, Quetzaltenango Guatemala

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