Empowering Guatemalan Youth to Promote Literacy

by Reading Village

For you and me, who love to read, it's hard to imagine an entire country where reading is not much valued and not regularly enjoyed. But this is the case in Guatemala. A colleague once heard it reported that of the Guatemalans who can read only 1% had read anything for pleasure that year. So imagine my delight at what happened the other day...
On October 1st Guatemala celebrated Día del Niño (Children's Day), and Daniel Guzmán our In-Country Coordinator and some of our teen reading promoters made their way to Concepcion's central plaza with the rest of the community to celebrate. And they each brought a book along...just in case.

After the singing of the national anthem, endless speeches and what not, the daycare teacher 
unexpectedly invited Daniel to say some words. He seized the opportunity, the microphone and 
Julio César (one of our teens) to translate into Kaqchikel. The whole community got to hear about 
what it is we do from one of their own youth, and Julio had the presence of mind to introduce the 
other teens and organize the children into two groups. Antonio and Luis (first-year reading promoters, 
prepared with their books and activities) volunteered to lead the kids in story time in front of the 
whole community. (See link to photos below.)

In this spontaneous moment a spark was lit. Parents who can't read, who can't afford to have books in 
their homes, and who have never read a story to their own children, saw for the first time ever the joy 
that reading brings their children and felt the satisfaction that comes with imagining a brighter future 
for them. I have a feeling this is one of those defining moments we'll look back on one day when 
Concepcion is a thriving, reading village.

If you've not yet made a donation this year, now is an opportune time to do so! On Tuesday, 
October 12, GlobalGiving will begin matching donations made to Reading Village made only from 
their website. (See link below.) Donations in the range of $10-$499 will be matched 30%, $500-$999 at 40% and 
$1,000-$2,500 at 50%. There are limited matching funds available so the sooner after 12:01 am 
Eastern on the 12th you make your donation the better. The matching opportunity runs through 
October 21st, as long as funds last.

Thank you for all you do to bring the power of literacy to children,

Linda Smith
Founder and Director
Reading Village


Last month we convened a group of amazing people with decades of experience in Guatemala, education, leadership development and literacy to help us take the good curriculum we developed for training our teen reading promoters and make it excellent. 

This curriculum will be part of a training manual (funded by a grant from the Tecovas Family Foundation) that will enable us to hire more community coordinators and expand to more and more communities. Our vision is to have 480 reading promoters in over 30 communities reaching 480,000 children by 2020. 

And expansion is already underway! Daniel Guzmán, our Program Coordinator, is currently in the community of Pujujil (Poo-hoo-HEEL) holding a meeting with community leaders and interested teens as he recruits a new crop of reading promoters. See here (http://www.readingvillage.org/2010/08/index.html) for a two-minute video of Daniel as he eloquently describes his heart-felt vision of our work with the children in his country. 

There are several ways you can help us bring the power of literacy to more children. We need donations to buy books and materials for Pujujil, for scholarships for the new reading promoters and for their training.

In addition to donating you can help in the following ways:

1. Participate in 100 Book Day on November 27th (http://www.readingvillage.org/100-book-day.html).

2. Join and/or promote our Learning Journey to Guatemala, Nov 20-28 (http://www.readingvillage.org/learningjourney.html) 

3. Bring Light Up Literacy to your synagogue for Hanukkah this year (http://www.readingvillage.org/light-up-literacy.html).

4. Bring Literacy for Lent to your church next year (http://www.readingvillage.org/literacy-for-lent.html)

Thank you for all you do to bring the power of literacy to children,


I'm in Guatemala with our Learning Journey group. They just spent three full  days in Concepción getting to know this indigenous Maya community, their culture, traditions and history as well as our reading promoters, their families and homes -- connecting at a very personal and heartfelt level. Promoters  and visitors alike were sad to see it end. (See link below for photos.)

I had the opportunity this morning to chat with Julio César, one of our  second-year reading promoters. He shared with me that he had been  planning on studying music until he began reading to the children in  Concepción through our Leaders and Readers program. The joy and  satisfaction this work gives him convinced him that he should become a  teacher, and he changed his course of study. 

Yesterday Julio's best friend Carlos, a first-year promoter, told him he was  confused about what he wanted to study. He'd always thought he'd become  a mechanic, but comments from various of the visitors on theLearning  Journey made him think he should consider being a teacher. (I have to say,  Carlos is amazingly talented at bringing stories to life for the children!) 

Then Julio said, "You know the phrase on the Reading Village logo,  Transforming Lives through Literacy? It really is true. My life has changed  because of Reading Village and now Carlos's life is being impacted as well."

All of our teens have grown tremendously in ability, self-confidence and self- awareness. Watch Maribel's face light up with pride in a two-minute video (link below)  as she talks about the success she is enjoying as a reading promoter.   

Thank you for all you do to bring the joy of reading to children, Linda


Donations to Reading Village do triple duty. We empower Guatemalan teens to promote children's literacy, and each dollar donated helps keep these teens in school, helps them develop leadership skills, and engenders the love of reading in children.

On June 16 your donation goes half again as far! On June 16 Global Giving will match 50% of your donation.

Here's the link to donate: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/empowering-guatemalan-youth-to-promote-literacy/ Please share this link and invitation to donate with your friends.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Time June 16. That's a 9:00 pm deadline for the Pacific Time Zone.

Thank you for all you do to bring the love of reading to Guatemalan children.


Don Martín and his family
Don Martín and his family

Fifteen years ago, in the agricultural town of Concepción, Don Martín's eldest son Rufino asked permission to enroll in high school. Having only an elementary school education himself, Don Martín considered students to be lazy good-for-nothings who were only looking to escape hard physical labor in the fields. And no one in Concepción at that time even had a high school diploma. But he begrudgingly allowed Rufino to continue his studies on the condition that he keep up his obligations at home.

So every day Rufino got up before the sun to work the land with his father until noon, grabbed a couple of tortillas for lunch and then walked an hour to school. After school he walked an hour home, did his chores, ate a bit of supper and at ten o'clock finally had some time for his homework. He did this day in and day out, and his friends thought him crazy. But it paid off for him as he is now a professional manager working for an international microcredit organization, and here's the really good part...

Don Martín -- the one who thought students were lazy good-for-nothings -- now willingly sends his daughter, yes his daughter, to high school. Her name is Marcela and she's also one of our star reading promoters.

Because of Don Martín's ability to change, Marcela has the opportunity to fulfill her potential. She is growing into a capable community leader, and she is bringing books and a love of reading to the children in her community, giving them the opportunity to fulfill their potential. One day she will do the same for her children.

I've always believed it takes just one person to make a difference. Don Martín has proved it's true.

Join Don Martín in making a difference. Honor a dad for Father's Day with a gift to Reading Village.

If you make your donation on Wednesday, June 16, GlobalGiving will match it 50%.

Marcela puts bunny ears on a child for story hour
Marcela puts bunny ears on a child for story hour

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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
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