Empowering Guatemalan Youth to Promote Literacy

by Reading Village

I just spent a couple of weeks in Guatemala and am happily overwhelmed by the changes I see. I want you to know how deep an impact you are making. (For photos, see link below.)

Over and over again, as I interviewed nearly every one of our 30 teen reading promoters, I heard them talk about their reading promotion work in ways that show they clearly understand the profound nature of the work. "My community has changed," said Carlos. "It's not just about reading to children. It's about transforming the whole community."

They see changes in themselves: A teen who is among the poorest of our promoters and who used to feel socially isolated at school said, "I used to cry a lot. The kids discriminated against me, and I felt very alone. But because of the [Reading Village] program I have changed. Now I know I am important. I matter. I am proud. And I am proud to carry my Reading Village book bag."

They see changes in the children they read to: The teens work a theme in a book (for example, discrimination in The Ugly Duckling). They ask children to share examples from the book that reflect discrimination and the teen writes it on the paper on the wall. Then they discuss solutions to the problem. The kids are beside themselves with pride to see their ideas on the wall. Teachers report to the teens changes they've seen in their students -- everything from improved teamwork to greater engagement and grades.

They see changes in the elementary school teachers: Teachers have started using literacy promotion techniques that they see our teens using.

They see changes in their siblings: Little brothers and sisters run around with books in their hands and ask to be read stories.

They feel supported by their community: An adult to a reading promoter, "Where are you going with that book bag?" Promoter, "To read to children." Community member, "Wow! How great that you are doing this! It's very important that our children learn how to read."

Buoyed by all this success, the promoters in both communities are seeking the support of local community leadership to find space for them to create the very first community library in their village.

Your investment in these teens and their work is having an impact far beyond children's literacy. It's transforming entire communities. 

Please donate today.


I was eager to connect with "Marco," one of our dynamic reading promoters, on my recent trip to Guatemala. Last November his father – out of the blue – asked him when he would be getting married. Marco is 17. He explained to his father that his studies were his priority. He has two more years of high school left. He wants to finish school, get a job and then get married.

Marco's father got so angry with his response that he kicked him out of the house, telling him he never wanted to see his face again.

He was forced to find housing and a job to support himself during the months of November and December (while school is out of session).

I am happy to report he's back at home, studying and leading reading activities. He is clearly traumatized by the shock of having the rug yanked out from under him. He is afraid he may, again, lose everything without warning, in the blink of an eye.

"All is well right now," I told him, "so celebrate and enjoy that. Don’t get stuck in fear over what might happen. Daniel, Gael, Larry and I are here when troubles arise to help you think of options and solutions." And with that he smiled, hugged me, and I felt his body relax a bit.

Every one of our amazing teen leaders has a story similar to this. They live on a precipice, and even the littlest things can send them right over the edge. Marco's father is not a bad man. He is under tremendous pressure to provide for his large family. And it is largely due to the funds you provide for Marco's schooling that enabled his father to take him back under his roof. Our youth appreciate you greatly and depend upon your support to keep their lives on track. 

Your support really matters. 

Thank you for your partnership in this important work.

"Today I had a very beautiful moment. I have always heard children asking for food or money, but for the first time in my life I saw a group of children ask for a story. And that, for me, is very significant" -- Gael Dhaenens, Reading Village's newly hired Community Facilitator in Guatemala.

He couldn't have captured the essence of our work any better! 

Help us bring this love of reading and the opportunity for a brighter future to the children in one more community.

This year Reading Village will begin recruiting teen reading promoters in a third community. Our goal is to raise $10,000 on Wednesday, March 14th to pay for the educational expenses and training of these youth as reading promoters and community leaders.

Donations on Wed, March 14th -- and that day only -- will be matched here on our GlobalGiving site -- and only here. Mark your calendar! 

Your support is transforming lives.

The next Reading Village Learning Journey to Guatemala is scheduled for March 11-17, 2012. This is going to be a trip packed with memorable experiences, including a visit to the colonial city of Antigua, a walk through ancient Mayan ruins, a boat ride across stunning Lake Atitlan to visit a local coffee cooperative, and shopping for beautiful handicrafts. Most importantly, we will learn and work side-by-side with our teen reading promoters and the kids in the villages, and spend time in the homes of local families!

Over the years, we have learned that these 10-person trips to Guatemala are about much more than service, cultural exchange, and sightseeing. Our participants consistently tell us that their experience in Guatemala reshaped their lens on life and illuminated new directions after they returned home. So, whether you are looking for an escape from the cold weather, a superb travel experience, or something more, we are confident that this next Learning Journey has something to offer.

Please join us and consider inviting a friend or family member to accompany you. Our participants range in age from teen (accompanied by parent) to 75+ years old. No Spanish necessary. We currently have five open spaces left on the trip so do not delay. Finally, this is likely to be the only Reading Village Learning Journey in 2012 unless we are able to squeeze one in during early December.

Click the following links for a short video and detailed information. Contact Larry Dressler, our beloved Learning Journey Sherpa, with any questions at 303-506-3127.

Dont't miss out! Make your reservation today while openings are still available,


Thank you for helping us reach our goal on the 19th! Follow the link below to see if you are the lucky winner of an Amazon Kindle Fire.



About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Reading Village

Location: Boulder, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.readingvillage.org
Project Leader:
Linda Smith
Boulder, CO United States
$242,667 raised of $350,000 goal
1,512 donations
$107,333 to go
Donate Now
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. Learn more.
Add Project to Favorites

Help raise money for this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page for this project.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.