Empowering Guatemalan Youth to Promote Literacy

by Reading Village
The Children
The Children

Can you believe it? It’s been seven years since we first went to work in Guatemala and five since we started our Leaders and Readers Program. Five years since we first awarded six scholarships and five years since those first scholars changed some 200 lives. Fast forward to the end of 2013 and I’m struck not only by how fast time has flown but by the growth we’ve seen and the impact we’ve had.

The Children - Thousands of children are growing up loving to read, and they now actively seek out books; this alone will change their lives. But they are also learning vocabulary, comprehension and creative and critical thinking skills, which are not taught in school.

The Teens - We're thrilled to report that 100% of teens who complete our program graduate from high school . And they are transformed from timid and quiet adolescents into bold leaders. Our scholars are not only leaving behind them a generation of readers they are also leading the transformation of their communities in the development of libraries and community centers in their villages – the first ever in their towns!

The Graduates - Our graduates are earning competitive salaries as teachers, librarians, nurses, health workers, literacy promoters, administrators and bookkeepers. And, to our delight, they are forming a network of program alumni to remain connected to each other and further the development of their communities. I am moved by all that these youth dare to accomplish. 

The dreams of all the children, teens, and graduates constantly inspire us to deepen our impact. In 2014 we will launch into our fourth community, we will serve 51 scholars and 3,000 children. We will also pilot a fellowship program with the innovative Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango - the second largest city in Guatemala, about 90 minutes from our partner communities. Two of our alumni will teach at the K-12 school, be mentored in the school's unique methodology, as well as receive scholarships to continue their university studies. This is just the next step in developing leaders who will come back to lift up their communities. It's a great honor, joy and privilege to watch them rise to the challenges in front of them and grow in their abilities.

As the year winds down and we look forward to all that lies ahead, I want to thank you for your partnership in this important work. Happy New Year from everyone at Reading Village!

The Teens
The Teens
The Graduates
The Graduates
Just a few of our girls in Guatemala
Just a few of our girls in Guatemala

What does it mean to be a woman in this world?

For my grandmother it meant the right to vote. For my mother it meant the right to work. For me it means the right to choose. 

For me, growing up as a girl in America has meant the choice between pigtails or braids, between plaid or polka dots. Later it meant choosing to be a tomboy or a girly-girl, and eventually it meant prom dresses, graduation pearls, and wedding rings. Today, being a woman in this country means that I have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of generations of women before me. Brave women. Proud women. And because of these women, I have every choice I could ever want – when to work and when to marry, who to vote for and what to wear. 

When I wake up and choose between flats and heels, between career and family, it is all too easy to forget that women everywhere aren’t making these same choices.

There are places in the world where being born a girl is a lot like losing a lottery. You’re unwanted. You’re a liability. You’re a burden. You may be traded like livestock or abandoned completely. Growing up as a girl in these parts of the world may mean you get married instead of going to school, you have your first child before you can even read and write, you sell your body so you can feed your family. In these parts of the world, being a woman may mean risking your life to get to work, walking through fields where you’re likely to be raped, being in before dark so you don’t risk death. It may mean your parents choose your spouse, your in-laws choose your home, your husband chooses your worth. Being a woman in these parts of the world may mean you have no real choices whatsoever.

The inequity of what it means to be a woman in this world is staggering, but so too is the opportunity before us. Give a girl an education and you give her the time to choose between work or marriage. You give her the capacity to earn a living. You give her the opportunity to achieve her full potential. Every year of education that a girl receives increases her lifetime earning potential by as much as 10%. And of every dollar that the educated girl eventually earns, she’ll reinvest 80 cents back into her family. 

Last Friday was International Day of the Girl. Around the world women like me are standing up, joining hands, and speaking out. Stand beside us, won’t you? Here's how:

  1. LEARNHead over to our blog and learn what our Founder & Executive Director, Linda Smith, had to say about her time to Guatemala. She met with some of our most inspiring female scholars and her unfiltered stories are worth the read! 
  2. GIVEConisder giving one dollar for one young woman so she can spend one hour reading to one girl. Together our dollars add up to make the difference; together we can build a foundation for girls’ education in Guatemala.
  3. REACHForward this on to ten people you know and ask them to stand beside you in supporting girls' education in Guatemala. 

Thank you for standing beside women around the world. Thank you for caring about our girls in Guatemala.

Just a few of the kids who benefit from literacy.
Just a few of the kids who benefit from literacy.

As the end of summer creeps near, we want to stop for a moment and say thank you. Thank you for an incredibly successful summer. In the past two months you have helped us raise more than $60,000 - enough for us to expand to our fourth community this winter!

That's right, thanks to you, we're going to grow!

When school starts in January in Guatemala, we'll have hired an additional community facilitator and accepted fifteen new students to leverage literacy for social transformation in another town. Because of you, we'll start 2014 with 55 teens who will collectively reach more than 3,500 children. 

Our founder and Executive Director, Linda Smith, has always believed that the deep network we continue to grow in one corner of Guatemala is only possible when we grow thoughtfully and strategically. That's exactly what we intend to do. We plan to expand the network we've already established so that more leaders, teenagers, children, teachers, and families can benefit from literacy.

At Reading Village, we focus on literacy becasue it is not only an end in itself but also the means to other, more transformative ends like economic self-sufficiency, good health, and political voice. This cycle of change starts with you. Your investment provides a foundation for our growth. Since 2007, Reading Village has worked with 56 teenagers who have collectively reached more than 3,000 children with innovative literacy promotion programs and this is just the beginning. Your investments over teh course of the past two months (not to mention the past six years) will help us expand to eventually reach thousands more children.

Thank you for making this growth possible. You've rocked our world, and together we can rock theirs.

- - - - - - - - 

P.S.   We still have a few spots to fill on our annual Learning Journey. Come with us to Guatemala from November 2-9 to see for yourself just how profound of an impact literacy is having in these communities. Visit our site to learn more about the trip and hurry to sign up before it's too late - http://readingvillage.org/literacy-programs/learning-journey/

Come on a Learning Journey and see for yourself!
Come on a Learning Journey and see for yourself!


We recently returned from an incredible visit to Guatemala where we witnessed the impact that your investment is having and where we were reminded of all the reasons why we are in this line of work.  

It’s for the girls - and the boys - who are learning to read on the laps of our scholars. It’s for Victor’s little brother who dreams of being a reading promoter himself. It’s for Daniel, our Program Director, who drives four hours from the city to sit with our students and share their dreams. It’s for the families of our students who opened their homes and who trust our work with their children. It’s for the fathers who work harder in the fields so that their sons can go to school. It’s for the mothers who fed us, who nourish their children, every single day.

Over truck rides down bumpy roads, we met the parents, staff, and scholars who together are weaving a network of change across rural Guatemala. While we sit behind computers and make phone calls to funders, they get their hands dirty and work compassionately to create a better life for their families. Your investment makes their lives a little easier.

This spring, join us in celebrating the women of Guatemala. Over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, we invite you to curl up and get lost in some good reading.

The Women of Guatemala - A tribute to the incredible women who stand at the bottom of the social pyramid but still manage to hold everybody else up. Read >

Tourism with a Twist - When we took a day off to visit the coffee fields and weaving cooperatives across the lake, here is what we saw. Read >

Ten Gringos in Guatemala - A Learning Journey with Reading Village is chock full of exploration, complete with tortilla making, weaving, reading, and coffee. Read >

When the Words Start to Settle - Despite our best efforts, it’s really hard to convey the impact of our work until you see it for yourself. Here’s our best shot. Read >

Thank you to all of the women in our line of work, to each of you who has found the compassion to educate a child, to the mothers and brothers and sisters and husbands who have selflessly invested in the wellbeing of another.

On behalf of Reading Village, thank you.

Life on Lake Atitlan Near our Project Sites
Life on Lake Atitlan Near our Project Sites

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There are places on this planet that break our hearts open to the beauty and possibility of life. Guatemala is one of those places. It’s no wonder I’m so incredibly excited to be heading back down there.

That’s right, in just a few days I’ll be traveling to Guatemala with Reading Village staff and supporters for our semi-annual Learning Journey. From April 25th to May 2nd we’ll be visiting ancient Mayan ruins, meeting our scholars, touring the communities, and celebrating literacy with the children. It’s going to be a great way for Reading Village supporters new and old to see the impact their investments have had!

As the snow piles up here in Colorado, I can think of nothing more lovely than a warm adventure down south, and I want you to experience it with me! Here’s how:

  • Visit our homepage to sign up for the Reading Village newsletter and I’ll make sure you receive weekly updates from the trip.
  • Check out our blog on a daily basis for new photos and great stories!
  • If you’re inspired by what you see, consider giving the gift of literacy. While we’re in the field we’ll be able to tell you exactly where you’re investment is going!

Thanks for checking in! Stay tuned for regular updates from Guatemala starting next week!


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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
$242,757 raised of $350,000 goal
1,515 donations
$107,243 to go
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