Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey

by Yspaniola Incorporated
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Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey
Literacy for Dominican-Haitian Youth in the Batey

In Yspaniola’s Learning Center, our classes often focus on learning through play! We believe in the psychological fact that children learn through play, as it enhances their brain development as well as their imagination. For this reason, our teachers are constantly seeking new games and activities that are both fun and conducive to our students learning. From Bingo to Matching Pairs, our students love a game, but there is one game that is particularly popular with children in our “Introduction to Reading” class. It’s called “Rotten Bananas” or in Spanish “Plátanos Podridos”. 

To play this game, you need yellow pieces of card shaped like bananas with words written on them. In addition to the yellow bananas, there are a few brown bananas with no words: these are the “rotten bananas”, and nobody wants a rotten banana!

The students all sit with their hands behind their backs. So that the students can’t see the bananas, the teacher passes behind each student with the bananas and the students must take turns picking one out, If they pick a yellow banana, they have to read aloud the word written on it. If they read it correctly, (sometimes with a little help from the teacher to sound it out), they get to keep the banana. The game continues from one student to the next. If a student picks up a rotten banana, the whole class shouts "rotten banana", and that student loses their turn. The game continues until the teacher has no bananas left.  

The aim of the game is to avoid choosing rotten bananas and to read as many words correctly as possible. At the end, the teacher does a recap of all the words, especially the ones that the students found most difficult! The winner is the student with the most bananas. The great thing about this game is that even students who are shy about reading aloud in class don't mind reading aloud during a game of "Rotten Bananas", because nobody ever wants to pick a rotten banana and miss a chance to win the game!

While the students told us they love this game because it’s good fun, their teacher, Mayra, said: “I think the students love this game because they love the idea of other students picking the rotten bananas! For me, this is a fantastic game not only because it makes everyone laugh but it is also a great way to get children enjoying learning to read.”

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Oriana is Yspaniola’s Preschool Teaching Assistant. Today she is 19, but she has been a part of Yspaniola’s programming since 2011, when visiting volunteers began informal reading sessions that the kids loved, paving the way for Yspaniola to officially launch our literacy programs in Batey Libertad in 2013.

Oriana learned to read through our very first reading hours and tutoring sessions. She has participated in our mentorship program, summer camps, and summer classes. 

Her journey has now come full circle as she teaches the very classes she was once a student in. Every day, Oriana brings her positive energy and wealth of experience to our classroom and inspires future generations to continue to learn and be excited about their education. 

Oriana reflects on how much her life has been impacted by Yspaniola: “Without them, I wouldn’t have learned to read or write as well as I do, and I learned a lot about patience. When I was working in the mentorship program our supervisor Marisela would talk to us about having patience working with the children if they didn’t understand something, and to just breathe and move forward. I still use this advice today, working in the preschool.” 

In her role as a teaching assistant, supporting Teachers Johnny and Yohanna, Oriana emphasizes the impact not only on students’ academic progress, but their behavior as well. “Johnny and Yohanna have continued to teach me and our students the meaning of patience, they bring energy and excitement to their teaching everyday even if they’re having a difficult day, and ensure that our students are learning how to behave appropriately in a classroom setting.”

Oriana says that her favorite thing is when the children come to her with questions and they want to learn new things. In addition, she says: “It’s really nice how the adults and children in the community acknowledge and respect me because I work for Yspaniola, hearing the kids in the street call out my name because they’re happy to see me outside of class, or being approached by parents who want to stop and talk to me. It makes me feel like I’m doing a good thing.”

“I want to be a role model for these kids, and set the example that it’s a good thing to get your education and to work with Yspaniola. I want them to know that they can do anything they want. I always make sure I tell my students you can be anything you want to be no matter what.”  

Having Oriana on our team is so important to our Yspaniola family and the Batey Libertad community. The fact that she has chosen to be a part of Yspaniola’s work for so many years, and to join our teaching team and inspire new generations with a love for education, is a testament to the impact of Yspaniola’s programs in students' lives.

Oriana working with our student Emiliano
Oriana working with our student Emiliano
Oriana helping Juan Carlos with his reading
Oriana helping Juan Carlos with his reading
Preschool staff L-R: Yohanna, Johnny, and Oriana
Preschool staff L-R: Yohanna, Johnny, and Oriana
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Ruth reads with Michenailie
Ruth reads with Michenailie

Thanks to Yspaniola, I learned how to read fluently. So, I love Yspaniola. Thanks to Yspaniola there are so many people here who can read and write.” says Ruth

Ruth started working with Yspaniola as an assistant in Reading Hour in April where she helped students improve their reading fluency, by reading with them and helping them when they don't know a word, its meaning, or pronunciation. 

The goal of our Reading Hour is not only to help children with their reading skills, but also to help them develop their Spanish language skills, as for most of the children, Spanish is their second language. Several studies, including longitudinal and interventional research, show that poor reading comprehension is strongly linked to deficiencies in vocabulary (Colenbrander, et al., 2016). Thus, by reinforcing reading skills, we help children develop a broader vocabulary, which over time will facilitate the development of better reading and comprehension skills. 

When we asked Ruth about her experience and the importance of a program like this in the community where she lives, she responded:

In 2020, I mentored 4 students through Yspaniola, in a class called Group 6. Today, I am so proud because the students I mentored are some of the strongest in our Reading Hour program. I think this job is important because I am helping students learn how to read. It is important because there are children in our community who do not have stable attendance at school. Some students cannot attend school because they do not have legal documents, like a Birth Certificate. Through Reading Hour, students can learn to read and write outside of school.

As a supporter of Yspaniola, your essential donations are greatly appreciated, as they will help Yspaniola expand this program and others to achieve our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty for families through education. We thank you for all your contributions! 



Colenbrander, Danielle, et al. «Individual Differences in the Vocabulary Skills of Children with Poor Reading Comprehension». Learning and Individual Differences, vol. 50, August 2016, pp. 210-20. ScienceDirect,

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Sofia and Daniela planning the activities
Sofia and Daniela planning the activities

We are delighted to announce that in January 2022, Yspaniola launched a new community engagement project “Tiempo para mi hijo/a” (Time for my son/daughter).

This exciting new initiative responds to a need identified by our teaching staff, which was confirmed by a community survey conducted in 2020 by Yspaniola. 

When questioned, 60% of parents surveyed in Batey Libertad reported that they didn’t feel confident helping their children with their homework and online learning. Parents also stated that they lacked the necessary resources: only 26% said their children had coloring pencils,57% had a pencil and pencil sharpener, and just 9% of families owned a ruler for their children to complete work at home.  

Tiempo para mi hijo aims to strengthen student’s knowledge, give parents tools and confidence to be able to help their children with schoolwork, and help foster positive mother-child and father-child relationships.The goal is to provide parents with skills and resources that can be used now and in the future. In addition to this, a psychometric test will be administered at the beginning and end of the program in order to generate valuable data that can be used by Yspaniola and the community in the future. 

This project is coordinated by Yspaniola’s talented scholar, Sofia. She is in her third year of a Bachelor Degree in Psychology, and a keen interest in developmental and family psychology as well as education. Her academic knowledge in these areas allows her to implement educational support with our kindergarten students and their families. 

Sofia conducts fortnighly home visits in which she assesses and advises the parents on how to best support their children in order to complete educational activities.

All the activities have been curated by Sofia with the support of one of Yspaniola´s fellows, who has extensive experience in Social Work and Education. The educational activities have been tailored to match the learning level of the children and also for the parents to practice different learning strategies. 

Sofia counts on the help of an assistant, Daniela. Daniela is a young professional from the Batey Libertad community who has experience working with children and is interested in early education. Daniela is using this internship to improve her IT and managerial skills. 

Tiempo Para Mi Hijo/a began in January 2022 and will end in June 2022. It is benefiting 15 families and has had a positive reception from the parents, the students and even their siblings, who on many occasions also want to join in with the tasks.

We love seeing all these families together and we wish Sofia, Daniela and the parents another three months of successful learning! We thank all our GlobalGiving donors for helping to make this possible!

Yspaniola student working with his mum and brother
Yspaniola student working with his mum and brother
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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds have struggled to access education as schools implemented remote learning systems. In Batey Libertad, where Yspaniola works, the local public school switched to online classes, and we watched in dismay as most students struggled to access schooling due to a lack of technology and regular internet access.

As we braced for a possible decrease in funding, the opposite happened! We at Yspaniola were overwhelmed by our donors’ generous response to our emergency fundraising campaigns, including GlobalGiving donors like you, who, during our Little by Little fundraiser for COVID-19 support, donated over double the amount we had raised in previous campaigns - amazing!

Your generosity compelled us to work harder than ever to maintain our support for students and their families in the face of COVID-19 economic and academic difficulties. We used your funds to:

  • Adapt our classroom management and class structure to continue to deliver daily in-person classes to over 50 students who were at a critical stage in their literacy development
  • Provide food relief for students and their families 
  • Offer fun, literacy-focused competitions for all community youth

Since the Dominican vaccine program kicked off, all adults and all children over the age of 12 in Batey Libertad have been offered the vaccine. This enabled students to return to their classrooms this September and at Yspaniola too, we were able to bounce back and re-energize some of our key programs.

This semester, we have focused on two important aspects of education: healthy lunch boxes (see our other GlobalGiving Project: Healthy Lunchboxes for our Preschoolers) and high-quality programming in our preschool classes.

In Preschool, we were finally able to re-open our Kinder class for four-year-old students, which provides one additional year of Early Childhood Education (ECE) to children in Batey Libertad.  

A second year of preschool has been shown to contribute substantial gains in cognitive outcomes [1,2] along with substantially improved future earnings and health benefits of up to $10 generated for each $1 invested in an additional year of schooling in low-income countries [3]

In addition to our Kinder Class, we have also continued our classes for students aged five to seven years, with a total of 56 students enrolled in Yspaniola's preschool program.

While it’s too early to see the results of our Kinder students, positioning tests conducted this semester will allow us to track our youngest students’ academic and cognitive developments throughout their first year of formal schooling.

The highlight of our back-to-school evaluations this year has been our older students, now aged six and seven years old. Most of these children are now entering their third year of Yspaniola classes. This group has already demonstrated marked improvements on their tests this year, compared to last.

One of the key elements we test is students' letter recognition skills. We noted that while this group has demonstrated excellent letter recognition advances on the letters that we have taught in our classes, when we speculatively tested other letters, they showed little to no knowledge, despite being in their second year of public school classes. 

This is likely a reflection of the past year, where these students lost out on their first year of public schooling because of the pandemic. It demonstrates the crucial role that Yspaniola’s in-person classes have played throughout the crisis, and will continue to play as we accompany these students through their first year of in-person public schooling.

Despite increased government investment in the country’s education system over the past few years, the persistent poor quality of public school provision in the Dominican Republic was highlighted in a recent study published by the Dominican government, which showed that 62.3% of 10-year-olds in the country cannot read and understand a basic text [4]. 

In light of this reality, at Yspaniola we are challenging ourselves to work even harder this year, with a holistic set of goals for each of our preschool classes which encompass literacy, motor, cognitive and socio-emotional skills. Our dedicated teaching team is more motivated than ever to achieve the new goals they have set, and to contribute to breaking cycles of intergenerational inequality by turning the tables on state-wide low academic performance, which disproportionately affects children in batey and other rural communities. 

We are deeply grateful to all our GlobalGiving donors for giving so generously throughout this time, and making all this work possible - thank you!

[1] Yoshikawa, H., Weiland, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Burchinal, P., Espinosa, L., Ludwig, J.O., Magnuson, K., & Zaslow, M.J. (2013). Investing in our future: The evidence base on preschool education. New York: Foundation for Child Development and Washington, DC: Society for Research in Child Development

[2] Engle, P. L., Fernald, L. C., Alderman, H., Behrman, J., O'Gara, C., Yousafzai, A., ... & Global Child Development Steering Group. (2011). Strategies for reducing inequalities and improving developmental outcomes for young children in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet, 378(9799), 1339-1353.

[3] Schäferhoff, M., Evans, D., Burnett, N., Komaromi, P., Kraus, J., Levin, A., & Jamison, D. T. (2016). Estimating the economic returns of education from a health perspective. Berlin: The Education Commission, SEEK Development.

[4] Boletín de Competitividad Sectorial, 2021, Ministerio de Economía, Planificación y Desarrollo (MEPyD)

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Organization Information

Yspaniola Incorporated

Location: Jamaica Plain, MA - USA
Project Leader:
Amy Porter
Director of Development
North Haven , CT United States
$20,013 raised of $50,000 goal
406 donations
$29,987 to go
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