Creating a Culture of Literacy

This March has been an exciting month for the Living Libraries leg of CUDA. One must understand when working in Peru that patience is key. If someone tells you that it can happen in a week, just go ahead and expect a month. If someone schedules a meeting for you “first thing in the morning,” expect to wait the majority of the morning to be seen. This can all be very frustrating, but God knew that I needed five years of living here to expect this four years into the program.  I have had to demonstrate a lot of patience this month, but things are slowly coming together, and it is so exciting to see it unfold...

1.  I couldn't be more excited about the two schools.

Last year was the first year that we changed from community libraries to working directly with the public schools. I targeted third grade, and I feel very good about the work that we did with the students and third grade teachers. But more than that, we were building the foundation of trust that we needed with the school principals and faculty. I love walking into these two school locations and hearing my name called with that beautiful Peruvian accent by the children, “Miss Megan (pronounced Meez May-gahn)!!!”
We learned last year, that the concept of setting up a special place for a library is completely foreign to the teachers and principals. So this year, one of the main goals is to help them set up a special place specifically for the library operation. Neil and I have been pricing and measuring different items from tables and chairs to colorful curtains. We are trying to create an atmosphere that the kids will love. A place where they can read and escape to another world through the venue of books. A place where teachers can bring their classes to focus on building the idea of a culture of reading.
In the boys school, the principal has opened a large classroom for the library space. They received donations for installing a projector, internet access, and a large screen television. This is very exciting because there are so many literacy resources on the internet that are already translated into Spanish. Abraham and I attended the first parent meeting of the year. I had the opportunity to share our dreams with the parents, and I stressed the value of their involvement with the children at home. I got a very positive response.
In the girls school, there is no classroom available. The principal values the importance of a library space, and she has granted us permission to build walls in a large auditorium that is not always utilized. It is important to have a space to store the books and other library items and to create that atmosphere of loving literacy.  We will begin that construction soon.
This year, we will be working with every grade level (first through sixth grade). I will be focusing on first– third grades on Thursdays, and Neil will be focusing on fourth through sixth grades on Fridays. I am beyond excited to build relationships with the teachers from every grade. The teachers are very supportive of the program, and they are looking forward to learning a library schedule and new strategies for their teaching.

2.  We are so close to signing official documents (with lawyers and news crews present) with the ministry of education.

This is huge for our program! When we have the official seal of the ministry of education, it opens many doors for CUDA to offer more staff development across the city, and it gives us the respect of the public schools. We will gain access to ordering books through major book distributors in Arequipa, and we will have the support and help from the ministry in planning major events for the city and schools where we have a presence.

3.  We are weeks away from choosing a full-time Peruvian staff member for the library program.

This means that I won't have to be the one calling and coordinating with all the principals! This is truly exciting and something that the program really needs. CUDA placed an announcement in the Arequipa papers a few weeks ago. We received over 50 applications! The group of applicants was narrowed to around 10 people, and those 10 are being interviewed this week. I hope that by the time you read this newsletter, we will have announced the newest member of the CUDA staff.
As a full-time momma and missionary, I have only been able to dedicate one full day to the schools. It was such a blessing when Neil Cantrall (a fellow missionary) decided to join the work as a volunteer. With a full-time Peruvian in charge of the library work, we will be taking these schools by storm this year. I am so excited to help train this person in what we are committed to accomplishing through this program. What a blessing this person will be to us. Please pray for this Peruvian– for their experience to benefit the NGO, for their personality to compliment the other three Peruvians already on the CUDA staff, and for their work to be blessed by God in the future of this work.