Empowering Guatemalan Youth to Promote Literacy

by Reading Village

I'm sending this note from Guatemala, where I'm spending two weeks working with staff, alumni, and youth leaders to refine our program and continue to grow our impact. During my visit I've had the joy of reconnecting with some of our very first youth leaders, the brave teens who helped launch our work so many years ago.

Rosmery was one of the six original youth leaders back in 2009 when the Leaders and Readers Program began. When I first met and interviewed her for acceptance into the program she said she wanted to become a teacher and I asked her why. She said that she wanted to help the children in her community have a better life and she saw education and literacy as the most promising ways to make that happen. To our devastation, Rosmery's mother died in the first year of the program. When I saw her just the other day - more than 7 years later - I asked her where she would be today if she didn’t have the benefit of the Reading Village scholarship at that time. No longer a reserved albeit ambitious teen, Rosmery answered with the eloquence of a young woman and community role model. She said she’d be working in the fields or married off or making tortillas, whatever she could do to make a living. She painted a picture of a life in a single room home, a dirt floor, manual labor. But instead of that being her reality, at 26 years of age Rosmery is the school teacher she dreamed of becoming; she has a fiancé she has chosen herself. She is a brilliant educator in a system that literally puts children last, and she attributes her passion and effectiveness in no small part due to the leadership training she received with Reading Village. 

We couldn't be more proud of the impact that our program has had on the trajectory of Rosmery's life. Nor could we be any more impressed with how she has leveraged her strengths to transform the lives of the children in her village. Rosmery is a perfect example of why investing in alumni and supporting them to remain connected to our work is our sixth building block of human capital. Their talent and contribution - both to our program as well as to their communities - remain integral to our success, every step of the way.

Thank you for investing in Rosmery all those years ago, and thank you for your partnership in this important work,

When high school isn’t free, almost anything can threaten a girl’s right to an education. Take Juana for example [not her real name]. Juana’s step-father, recently reunited with his biological daughter has been convinced by her that he should support her and not Juana. 15-year-old Juana is one of the most promising students in our Leaders and Readers Program, and is now having to consider moving out of her home and living with her grandmother. 

In communities where only 10% of youth have the opportunity to go to high school, scholarships become vehicles of change for our youth leaders. Because education is so important to every young person in their efforts to reach their full potential, scholarships are one of our 10 critical Building Blocks for building human capacity. Your support of the Leaders and Readers Program allows Juana and all of her peers in the program to continue studying and break free from the cycle of poverty that entraps their families in rural Guatemala.

Invest in the capacity of youth like Juana during this month’s Human Capital Campaign and double your impact before the month is over. Matching funds (up to a total of $50,000) are still available for donations made by 11:59 pm, today June 30th. We hope you'll help us reach more youth like Juana with a donation today!

Thank you for your partnership in this important work,

Linda Smith
Founder & Executive Director, Reading Village

Leadership as a Building Block of Human Capacity
Leadership as a Building Block of Human Capacity

Juan is the perfect example of how our program leverages individual achievement to better entire communities. 
Juan entered our Leaders and Readers Program just this year. Not only does Juan fulfill the program requirements of leading 3 hours of reading activities with 50 children each week and attending leadership development workshops, but he has also taken the initiative to give back even more to his community. He helps neighboring school children with their homework, giving the children the support their parents can’t and reinforcing the importance of education by his example. No one asked him to do this. He simply felt compelled to do it. It’s a beautiful thing to watch a young leader rising.

Juan’s reaching out to neighboring children required clear values, a vision, self-esteem, empathy, relationship building, planning, a sense of purpose and a belief that he could make a difference. These are the types of skills and attitudes our youth leaders gain by participating in our program. In every way they are preparing to be the next generation of professionals, parents and leaders of their communities. 

Youth leadership development is the cornerstone of our co-creative work with our partner communities in Guatemala and one of the 10 human capital building blocks we are sharing with you this year as we celebrate our 10th year. 

During the entire month of June we will be raising funds through our 10th Anniversary Human Capital Campaign. A generous group of contributors has created a $50,000 pool of funds to match your contributions 100%. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to multiply your impact in Guatemala and invest in youth leaders like Juan who are also giving very generously of themselves.

Thank you for your partnership in this important work,

Linda Smith
Founder & Executive Director, Reading Village

The Leaders and Readers Program
The Leaders and Readers Program
Ten Years of Impact
Ten Years of Impact

In our partner communities thousands of children are reaping the benefits of youth-led reading activities. Alicia, a Reading Village youth leader, is not alone when she reports, “The children I read to ask deep questions. They are not afraid to express themselves."

We have chosen literacy as our tool for change because literacy is not only an important end in and of itself, but it is also the means to other more transformative ends, such as improved health, economic development, creative and critical thinking skills, informed decision making, personal empowerment, as well as civil and social participation. In the hands of our youth leaders,literacy becomes a building block for human capacity; it is a tool to help communities break free from the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Beyond the three hours of engaging reading activities our teens deliver each week, they are also having an impact at home. Zoyla proudly told me, “My four-year-old sister is growing up with books in our house. She is too little to read but she turns the pages. She asks me questions about the books and wants to go to school.”

Carmen reads to her mother while she weaves, and Alicia’s three-year-old sister looks at books she brings home, and her brother wants to follow in her footsteps to become a youth leader and reading promoter, too.

For these reasons and so many more, we celebrate literacy as the 9th building block in our Human Capital Campaign. In our tenth year we now have youth who were part of our program during all six years of their elementary school education now enrolled as Reading Village youth leaders and promoting literacy themselves. We have great expectations for the passion and skill they will bring to their reading hours at the schools and the impact they’ll have in their communities.

Thank you for your partnership in this important work,

Linda Smith
Founder & Executive Director, Reading Village


Celebrating 10 Years of Breaking the Cycle of Intergenerational Poverty.

Bring out the piñatas, Reading Village is celebrating it’s 10th year! And we have much to celebrate. Your investment in literacy, education and youth leadership is breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. And the building blocks that make this possible are not bricks and mortar, but rather the critical ingredients of developing human capacity.

Let’s take a closer look at the first of ten critical ingredients in our unique approach to develop human capital in Guatemala.

In order to be efficient and effective a team needs to be well-resourced. In any of our partner communities you can easily spot our youth leaders. They each proudly carry their Reading Village book bag filled with the resources they use in their literacy promotion activities with children. Three-ring binders, lesson planning sheets and calendars, pens, storybooks, puppets, construction paper, crayons and more equip these youth every day as they lift the generation behind them with the skill and love of reading. Eric creatively used his materials to make giant dice, one with letters and one with numbers. The children in his reading activities take turns rolling the dice and sharing a word with the number of letters indicated by the one die and starting with the letter indicated by the other.

Program Resources is Human Capital Building Block #10. We’ll be counting down each month with a from-the-field, human example of how your contributions support the development of human capital in our partner communities and create a cycle of opportunity for children full of potential just waiting to be realized.

Head over to our blog to enjoy the latest video summarizing our innovative model of community development, the impact we've made together thus far, and our vision for the future. 
This year we are celebrating ten years of impact, but we’ve only just begun. Reading Village will not stop until every child has the opportunity to fulfill his or her potential.

Thank you for your partnership in this important work,

Linda Smith
Founder & Executive Director, Reading Village

PS: We'll be in Guatemala April 7-14 and we'd love for you to follow along on Facebook and our blog to catch all the fun and inspiration! 


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Organization Information

Reading Village

Location: Boulder, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.readingvillage.org
Project Leader:
Linda Smith
Boulder, CO United States
$235,951 raised of $350,000 goal
1,424 donations
$114,049 to go
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