Apart from Haiti, Guatemala has the worst literacy rate in the Western Hemisphere. Social and cultural prejudices show up plainly in national literacy statistics. While a wealthy male of European descent is certain to be literate, an impoverished Mayan girl has only a 30% chance of being able to read and write. Guatemala’s low levels of literacy are also the product of failing education systems and limited resources for learning. The World Bank reports that Guatemala spends just 3% of GDP on education, and because public education is not free, attendance figures are dismal with 75% of children dropping out before the 6th grade and only 10% reaching high school. Outlays for enrollment fees, uniforms, transportation and school supplies for just one child can cost half of a family’s annual income.
Within the greater fabric of Guatemala, Reading Village has focused its work on the most marginalized: rural and indigenous populations. At present, we operate within the Department of Sololá in five different partner communities. This province ranks among the nation’s lowest rates of school enrollment and advancement to the next grade. The consequences of this low educational achievement ripple out across society: 20% of the Sololá population suffers from chronic malnutrition, 43% of girls are physically stunted, 57% of the population lives in extreme poverty, and the majority of people have just one USD to spend on food every day.
Our programs develop local capacity by focusing on youth development and leadership to improve literacy, critical and creative thinking skills, higher levels of education, higher salaries upon graduating, opportunities for university studies and all the social, political and economic benefits associated with these achievements.
Our core program is called Leaders and Readers. Over the last year we have expanded our reach to 5 communities and now have 100 teens providing reading services to over 4500 elementary school children on a daily basis.
The Leaders and Readers program activities include providing high school scholarships for teens, 15 leadership development and training workshops during the course of the year, and personal mentoring. We also hold an annual retreat that brings together the teens from all five communities, we organize field trips that expose the teens to other teen leaders and other community development projects and we provide guidance from our staff as the teens undertake their own community development projects.
The teens deliver at least three hours of reading promotion activities each week with younger children in their communities as part of the program. Some teens provide extra reading activities to interested neighbors of all ages at different times in the week. They also host small groups of Reading Village supporters once a year during our annual Learning Journey which gives our supporters the unique opportunity to see the direct impact of their partnership by visiting the teens in their villages and getting to know them, their experiences as Reading Village youth leaders and their way of life. This unique cultural exchange helps the teens to feel seen and appreciated for their work and culture as people come from thousands of miles away just to be with them. In addition, on average our teens family incomes increase by over 98% after participating in our program. We are truly eradicating poverty 1 teen and family at a time. We invite you to join us on this critical mission.