Friday was International Literacy Day. At our School Library Project we celebrated this day with an special afternoon activity for elementary school students, a “One hour Reading Marathon”. Several volunteer members of the community assembled together at the library and read stories to children. We wanted to find out how many stories we will be able to read in one hour, at the same time bringing literacy closer to children who in most cases don’t have a single book at home and whose parents can’t support them with literacy because they are illiterate themselves. We also knew it will be fun.
Today, while writing this, I started thinking how my own personal view of the world would be if I didn’t have the gift of reading. Just think all that you would miss if you wouldn’t be able to read these words.
Each year, the Guatemalan public schools arrange Olympic Games that are played in each school district. After lots of practice and preparation, the students compete in team sports and individual events, and the whole community joins in to root on their team.
At the Chukmuk School Library, we have taken advantage of this downtime by cataloging our incoming book donations. In previous months, when we are also leading literacy activities for the students, we have averaged 100 books catalogued each month, but in June we catalogued 100 books per week! We also had time to advance on our Literacy Activities Manual for the teachers, with a working first draft nearly completed. This manual will guide teachers through lesson plans and literacy activities that they can implement in their classroom.
A volunteer group helping us during two weeks in June worked at the library two mornings, painting and varnishing the old, little tables and chairs that the school donated for library use. Not only does the space look better, but it will also help us reinforce to the students respect towards the educational materials they have at the library and at the school. We have rearranged the existing furniture to create a better space, separating out areas for children’s stories, silent reading and independent research for the older students, and a floor area for games. We also made an assessment for needed furniture which is already in place! We look forward to continue building a space that will be comfortable and useful, as well as filling our shelves with more books!
The library that was just opened up in our new location in the ChukMuk School has come leaps and bounds in the last month thanks to a lot of work from the Library Coordinator, Johanny, and Librarian, Lidia, along with the Program Manager, Montse. The shelves are slowly but steadily being filled with more stories and textbooks, the walls are decorated with bright colors to warm up the cinderblock classroom, and the literacy activities are in full swing. One of the teachers, Gaspar Sapalú, mentioned “The kids love to go to the library activities, their only complaint is they wish they could go everyday!”
Even when the kids don’t have a scheduled library time that day, the books come to their classroom with “traveling suitcases” that contain materials for teachers to keep up their own literacy activities. The kids are also taking full advantage of our free hour each day where they often practice reading aloud in Spanish. Most of their parents speak only the local Tzu’tujil language, so school is often the only time for practicing their Spanish that will no doubt open opportunities for them in the future.
This month we also organized a school-wide event that got everyone reading! To celebrate the Internacional Día Del Libro, we had each teacher read a story to their class, and the students got to design their own bookmarks. At the end of the week, seven winners were chosen and given prizes based on their understanding and creative depiction of the story. Encouraging kids to use their imagination to make a story come to life not only helps stimulate their minds, but also fosters a love of reading!
We’re settling in to our new location in the Chukmuk school, and the children are so excited! Every day they ask our librarian, Lidia, “When are the library activities going to start?” We assure them that activities will be starting very soon, but in the meantime, we’ve been moving, cleaning, and organizing.
Throughout February we were…
Moving the library furniture to the new location
Packing, unpacking, and organizing six hundred new books donated and purchased with donations over the past year
Library Coordinator Johanny and Librarian Lidia hold the first three books cataloged for the library.
Cataloging the library’s stock with the simplified Dewey decimal system and a junior color code
Expanding our “library start-up” guide so that other teachers or schools who are interested in starting a library can model our work
Registering and updating our existing inventory of 290 books
Painting bookshelves in cheery colors to make the library more inviting to children and also to protect the books from humidity during the rainy season
Holding our first training for teachers and library support group members
Starting our ongoing training for teachers and the library support group.
We're off to a great start, but we could still use about five times more books!
We’re pleased to have come so far, but also know how much more we have to do. For example, we need to grow our library stock. International guidelines recommend a minimum of 3,000 items in library stock, including books in Spanish, educational materials, etc.) to satisfy the needs of 250 students. And we still need to furnish three separate areas of the library: the investigation area, the story area, and the creativity area. In the meantime, we’re thrilled to be in our new space, and looking forward to watching our library—and the literacy and imaginations of the children—grow and grow.
Pueblo a Pueblo welcomes Juana Lidia to our small Library Project team! Juana Lidia will be the school librarian for the Chukmuk School. She’ll be sharing both enthusiasm and her experience working in two local libraries with the children of Chukmuk, ensuring our library is not only filled with books, but also with boundless opportunities for learning.
The library’s new location is nearly finished. All it needs is a coat of paint and we’ll be ready to start cataloging and organizing books on the shelves. With generous donor support, we’ve been able to offer literacy activities and even summer camp programs in provisional locations while we waited for the new school and library location to be finalized. But now we’re looking forward to the smiles on the children’s faces as they walk through the door and see their new library full of books for the very first time!
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