We are off to a great start in the Living Library program. After three years of opening community libraries and struggling to make them work, we have a new strategy, and I am very excited to share this with our supporters. In our community libraries, the people in the neighborhoods were very supportive and encouraging toward our goal of seeing the library succeed. However, we learned that getting members of the community to volunteer their time free of charge was next to impossible. After seeing several open and close, we chose to invest all of our man-power into the Porvenir location. I believe that the children that attended those Saturday library events appreciated every moment they spent there. But at the end of last year, we received a final word from the Miraflores mayor asking us to leave the building because he wanted to use it for other purposes. I was really bummed over this situation. How could a mayor not see the benefit of this community library. But politics are politics, and they definitely played into that situation. I was very sad for the children we served, but we had no choice. And looking back, I think it was God's hand closing that door and pushing us toward another opening.
So we have a new plan. And I am so excited to share this with you. First, I need to fill you in on Naranjal. We have a long-standing relationship with the people of Naranjal. We decided to open our final community library there. I worked during the summer months with the children at that location. It was a very short time, during a very wet rainy season. Only 4-6 kids came to the events, but I pray that over time that program will grow more and more.
Now for the brand new part! We are collaborating with three different public schools this first year to try a new method in promoting reading comprehension in the lives of these students. We are targeting just the third grade classes. I know from my experience as a teacher and my time here, that the key to making this a success is equipping the teachers. We had such a problem with finding a volunteer base in those community settings. Why not go to the places where people are passionate about the kids and already trying to teach them? So that is exactly what we have done. The staff at these schools are thrilled to have the extra help and staff development opportunity. Here is how it is all going down:
- Alfredo and I met with the staff at all three of the locations. They have listened to the plan, know what is expected from them, and have signed a formal agreement stating that they are on board.
- Alfredo and I made a visit to the classes the last Monday in March in order to have the kids evaluated at the beginning of the program. I am hoping that this assessment coupled with an end-of-the-year assessment will show positive results.
- I am planning the first meeting for the teachers where I will begin to share my knowledge on the subject of reading comprehension strategies. It is my hope that we will meet once a month to discuss how it goes in the classes. I am excited to build these relationships with the teachers involved.
- I will make visits to the classes once a month to do an example lesson using the different strategies. We will also provide the classes with a start-up school library (if you have donated books in the past, they will either be found in Naranjal or these schools. And don't hesitate to send more!)
- Our plan is to incentivize the students that perform well in the program half way through the year and then end of the year.
A couple of stories I would like to share with you that happened this past Monday:
I walked into the all-boys school class, and a little boy shouted, "Profesora!" (which means "teacher" in Spanish). It was a little boy, Joel, that came to our library location in Porvenir. I also ran into one of our girls in the all-girls school. It is such a blessing, and affirmation from God, that we will still be serving the same children that could have come to that community library location.
In one of my assessments with a third-grade boy, I could tell he was one of the sharper ones. His reading fluency was excellent, he answered every reading comprehension question with ease. I got to a question, "What is your favorite book?" He told me that he didn't have one, shrugging his shoulders. I asked, "But do you like to read?" He looked up at me, "Yes. But I don't have any books to read. That is why I can't tell you my favorite."
That, supporters, is a huge reason you are making a difference here. It is my hope that we can make an improvement in reading comprehension, but something simpler than that is to make it easier for these children to have free access to books. It is my prayer that they will discover a world of knowledge through this program and the stories that they will have access to read.