I remember sitting in the library office with Lucia dreaming about what could come for the future of Living Libraries (more than a year ago). We tossed several big ideas around that day, but one that became a reality this past month was an international education campaign that included speakers from the U.S. and Peru. I am excited to share my reflection of this event.
We began Living Libraries because there isn’t a culture of literacy here in Peru. Educators’ opportunities for professional development are few and far between. We start libraries, but one of our biggest goals in Living Libraries is to equip teachers with strategies for the classroom. In the school where we work this year, teachers from each grade level (1-6) attend a once-a-month staff development meeting to discuss the strategy we model throughout the month. I cherish this time with the teachers. It builds our relationships with them, and I know how beneficial the time can be to discuss the strategy as professionals without students present.
While our man power is low, and we can only manage to work with 2-3 schools each year, a door was opened for us to spread professional development to close to 100 teachers. Lucia worked countless hours to make the campaign a reality. She scored a way for us to host the campaign on one of the city’s most esteemed university campuses. She contacted and communicated with several big names in Peruvian education to come and speak at the campaign, along with several professors from the hosting university. It was a wonderful week, and a fantastic first campaign. There were, of course, a few glitches, but if there is something our NGO knows it is “live and learn.” We learned a lot from this first experience.
CUDA is blessed beyond measure to have two of its board members specializing in education. Dr. Clara Carroll and Dr. Ileene Huffard made the long trip to Arequipa to participate in the campaign, check out the Living Libraries in action, and meet with CUDA staff in person. It was an honor to be named their week-long tour guide. It was an absolute blessing for the two of them to see the library this year. The school surprised them with a show of traditional Peruvian story and dance. Both doctors spoke 3 different times in the areas of literacy formation, child development, instructional strategies, and reading comprehension. They were a huge hit with the Peruvian teachers attending the conference. It was an absolute delight to have them share their expertise with many hard-working teachers who don’t have access to new materials in the education field. We were beyond thankful to have them as keynote speakers.
Two other speakers that I really enjoyed meeting were Javier Arevalo and Manuel Herran. Javier is a Peruvian author who started an NGO in Lima called Recreo. His NGO starts libraries in schools, but they have a strong emphasis on parental involvement. We really enjoyed sharing ideas with Javier, and there is potential for an alliance to develop between our two groups in the future. Javier is also responsible for a Peruvian law that was passed for a national reading plan in the public schools. Manuel is a professional story-teller. In his talk, he presented Jim Trelease’s work on the “Read-Aloud.” He tours the country of Peru speaking on behalf of the publishing company, MacMillan. He has agreed to come and tell a story to our school this year the next time MacMillan brings him through Arequipa.
The campaign was every evening (M-F) from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm. All that attended received a certificate of professional development hours for 120 hours stamped by the ministry of education (these hours also included extra technology and follow-up on the topics presented). Their certificates can be applied toward incentives from the ministry.
For me, the major highlights that came from the campaign were (1) CUDA’s name getting out there; (2) the new relationship that CUDA has with Recreo; and (3) Clara and Ileene seeing the work in person. The final day, a teacher approached me and asked, “When will you all be offering another opportunity like this?” That comment was icing on the cake. Living Libraries will be seeking out other opportunities in the future to help and equip the education professional community of Peru.