Welcome to the Books for a Better World blog, where we post updates about the libraries we provide with childrens books in Central America.
"A life filled with books is one enriched by the beauty of language and the excitement of ideas."—Kae Robb, BBW Founder

Monday, December 12, 2011

We Moved!

The Books for a Better World Official Blog can now be found on our website at booksforabetterworld.org. Check it out :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jardín de Niños El Edén, Honduras

I had been to this area before, and Books for a Better World had been to this little preschool, El Edén, in the past, but for some reason I did not make it here the previous year. But when I entered this little room full of smiling children, I was greeted by what seemed like an old friend, Florinda. She is the vibrant teacher at this preschool, and last year she also happened to be our guide taking us to several schools when Hugo, the previous director of schools for the region, could not make it.
Door decoration

Florinda is at home with all 14 little ones, 4-5 years old, and just by one look you can tell that the kids lover her as much as she loves them. The school and the children don't have much, but Florinda makes sure that these kids are learning, and having fun while doing it.

The day I went there was the day after El Dia del Lempira, and national holiday celebrating the native Lempira, a war captain of the Lencas of western Honduras in Central America during the 1530s, when he led resistance to attempts to conquer and incorporate the region into the province of Honduras. Well of course as soon as I got there the kiddos had to stand and sing me the new song they learned to commemorate this day. Under Florinda's guidance, they continued on to sing other cute songs for me, some about animals where they got to pretend they were elephants and make motions like they had a trunk.
I think we almost doubled their collection of books!

But most importantly, they sat patiently and intently as I read stories from new books to them, their eyes wide in amazement of what they were hearing (or maybe they were just in awe of who was reading the stories, me, a strange looking lady with a strange accent). Either way, they were enchanted. We read counting books with animals, and they were eager to count all of the little bugs on the page. They could even tell me which number was coming next.

Most public preschools in this area are separate entities from the elementary schools, but are in an attached or close by building so they can share some resources, but this one is a little further away, so they don't get to share books as much. They had a little bookshelf of well read books, and we were very happy to get to add to their selection.

Volunteer Kira and teacher Florinda in the back, with the proud new book owners in the front!

This school was visited by volunteer Kira Gartell in July 2001.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Escuela Canton La Concepcion, El Salvador

Our faithful driver, Don Pabel took us to the Centro Escolar Canton Concepcion, where we were greeted by lots of kids wanted to read!  This K-7 school has the lower grades meet in the morning, and then the older kids have school in the afternoon, for a total of 113 kids in 3 rooms.

Pabel's trusty truck that takes our volunteers to the schools,
and their muddy futbol field.
 There is no running water, and only 1 room has electricity. They are hoping to be able to work with the mayor of the nearby town, San Pedro Puxtla, to be able to get more electricity in the future. The government doesn't supply much, a few textbooks and a meager lunch is about it. We noticed some drums in the corner of the library, which were so they can have music classes.
Most of these books are textbooks.
We are working on getting the books more accessible for the kids.
This is the 3rd year that Books for a Better World has visited this school, and their reading program is definitely growing. The students now have time every day for reading. They can choose their own books from the few that they have. The books are just stacked on shelves for now, so we are trying to work with them to get them organized by grade level, and also so the kids have better access to them.
Welcome! Kira reads a silly story about dinosaurs to the kids
Of the 14 who will graduate, the director said only 5 or 6 will continue on to high school. This is due to the distance and cost of continuing education. But at least they have these books to enjoy while they can.

"The Snoring Bear" was a favorite this year
This school was visited by volunteers Kira Gartell and Erik Wennstrom in July 2011.

Escuela Marcos Carias Reyes and Jardin Rayito de Luz, Honduras

Alice helping a student read about animals
Escuela Marcos Carias Reyes 3 room school with grades 1-6. Of the 12 students who will graduate from 6th grade this year, only half will continue with their education.  For the others, the high school is just too far away and too expensive for them to be able to attend. They will most likely help their family on their subsistence farm. 

But the kids were enthusiastic about the new books, and loved helping us read the new ABC book, full of animals and tongue twisters. 

While we have been donating to this school for several years, we just found out this year that there is a new kindergarten down the road with twelve little 5 year olds. Luckily we always bring some extra books with us, and so of course we just had to stop by to give them some story books!

For some of these kids this may have been the first time
they had been read a story from a book.
The teacher had not a single book to read to the kids. What she did have was a few CD's with books on tape. The teacher would listen to the stories on her own, and then retell the stories to the kids in the most interesting way that she could. We were only able to leave a dozen or so new books for this little school, but we know they will get good use until we can bring them more next year.

These schools were visited by volunteers Kira and Alice Gartell in July 2011.

More photos for Union Centroamericana, Honduras

Reading about koalas

5th grade books

enjoying their new books

Bumpy road on the way to Union Centroamericana

But bumpy roads lead to beautiful views

Escuela Union Centroamericana, Loma Alta Norte, Honduras

BBW volunteer, Alice, resting after a long, bumpy ride to get to the school
about half of the schools books, all donated by BBW
This 2 room, 51 student school, is headed by Hugo Martinez, a long time friend of Books for a Better World. For at least the past 5 years Hugo had been the director of schools for the entire region of Santa Lucia, and was the trusty guide who took BBW volunteers to all of the schools in the area. But due to some recent political changes in Honduras, Hugo is now back in the classroom. While it was a hard transition at first, we could tell that he loves being back in the classroom, and the kids love having him there, too.

The books we have brought in the past years are very well organized, by grade level even! The 2 classrooms contain 2nd, 3rd, and 6th graders in one room, with 1st, 4th, and 5th graders in another. This way the older students can help the younger students.

This small school is way up in the mountains, which provides beautiful views, but a long trek up a terrible road to get there. Most of the children live off of subsistence farms in the area, and even though they are only about an hour from the urban capital of Tegucigalpa, their lives feel like a million miles away.

One thing they have in common with the city kids -- they LOVE Dora la Exploradora!

This school was visited by volunteers Kira and Alice Gartell in July 2011.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Escuela Barrio Santiago, Cubulco

Escuela Barrio Santiago is a school located in the town of Cubulco, Guatemala. Books for a Better World has been visiting this school for almost seven years now and their excitement for reading has never waned. This year was no exception. Volunteers Amanda, Annalisa, Dax and Allen arrived to the school just as classes had begun. The children at this school are no strangers to Books for a Better World volunteers--they knew exactly what treasures were contained in the brown box, BOOKS!

As evidence of the dedication that this school has to reading, the school principal worked with the parent/teacher organization to construct a special cart in which books are housed. This works especially well for this school because it is built on the side of a steep hill. The cart can be easily moved from classroom to classroom to allow all of the students access to the books. It is obvious that the books are well "loved" because many of the pages are heavily worn--especially on the older books.

Because this is one of our larger sites (in terms of number of students) we decided to take some special BIG books for this school. The kids loved the big books! We are excited to report that 2011 has been another successful year for Escuela Barrio Santiago!

Santa Inés II - A New Library Opens Doors to Volunteers

 As part of Books for a Better World's commitment to literacy, we are always on the look-out for new libraries in need of books. Such was the case of Escuela Santa Ines II. We were made aware of this school by Medardo Luna, Co-director of the Salamá School District. Mr. Luna is a champion of children's literacy--especially in rural community schools. In fact, he was born and raised in a small village in the mountains near Santa Inés. He, Alice and I left early in the morning to make it down the long, windy road to this rural community. We were grateful to the excellent four-wheel-drive on our SUV because the pavement came to an abrupt end as we climbed the mountainous, dirt path to our destination.

Alice reads to a classroom of excited students
 When we finally arrived at the school we were greeted by an excited group of kids who promptly notified the school principal of our presence. Medardo introduced us to the principal and a couple of the teachers. We explained that we were interested in starting a small library in their school. The look of excitement on their faces made every bump on that dirt road worth it!

It was obvious that most of the children had never seen a children's story book in their lives! They were somewhat timid at first but you could see their excitement build as we shared the exciting collection of books with them. After a couple of stories were read we started getting the students involved by allowing them to read in front of the class. It was great having Medardo there because he was someone they all recognized and respected. We love to get local school districts involved as much as possible--they do a great job of perpetuating the excitement and energy of a reading program.

Students pay close attention as a classmate reads aloud
After spending a couple of hours reading with the kids we knew that we must depart for another school. With thankful hearts, the students and faculty of this tiny school bid us farewell with excitement about their new gifts. We look forward to returning next year to see all of the progress they will be sure to have in their reading program.
I'm grateful to those who contributed to my adopt-a-library birthday fundraiser.  La Laguna is yours!  Before we arrived there were only a few storybooks stored inside the director's office. This year’s delivery is the beginning of the La Laguna library!  It's my hope that the books will inspire and encourage the children’s dreams and ambitions. Many of the world’s great leaders, like Abraham Lincoln, found their callings through reading.  Maybe the next Abraham Lincoln is from La Laguna!
Tunal was my very first school.  It also happened to be well-established in the Books for a Better World program.  Their shelves were filled with books from previous deliveries and teachers set aside thirty minutes a day for reading - the worn books proved it!  It's amazing to see how resources and initiative can combine to produce results!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More photos from Santa Ines Uno

Volunteers Allen and Alice bringing the books.

All the children gathered to hear Alice read a silly book.

Indigenous children paying attention as Allen reads to them. 

Students with new books.
Shy preschool girl.

More photos from Tunal

These boys like the big book.

Excited children as teacher reads a new book. 

Children enchanted with silly dinosaur book. 

Two pretty girls. 

Eager to volunteer. 

Adorable little boys listening intently to the story. 

More photos from La Laguna school

Kids very happy with their new books.
Reading to the younger children, with many raised hands. 
Free reading time with the new books. 
Two boys reading a book together.
They noticed our camera and gave us big smiles. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Maria Margarita Rodriguez, Santa Elena

Up a very steep hill, this school with grades 1-6 all in one room is run by Yashmina, a very strict but caring teacher of the 26 students at this school.

Steep road up to the school.
Two years ago the road was so bad we had to walk up instead of drive.

When we got there, a few little girls were very excited and wanted to read us stories from last year's collection. While they were still sounding out the words, we could tell they knew the story and enjoyed the pictures. They were learning little by little how to read the books that they enjoy.

G is for Gato (cat)! We took turns reading aloud from this book.
It was especially fun to read because while it was an ABC book, 
each page was an animal with a little tongue twister rhyme to go with it.

They have reading time every Friday, when they can choose their own books to read by themselves.

The school says "Gracias" for all of their new books!

This school was visited by volunteers Kira and Alice Gartell in July 2011.

Escuela Jose Trinidad Cabanas, El Tamagas, Honduras

The 1-6 graders are so happy to be showing off their new books!
A total of 28 students attend this school, from Kindergarten to 6th grade. One room is just for kindergarten, which they have one class in the morning and another in the afternoon. Then the other classroom is for all grades 1-6.

The cutest little kinder! We are making sure that they will grow up to love books.

We got to this school as the kids were having "physical education" - playing soccer on a rough field nearby. But when they saw us coming with the books, PE was immediately over and the kids came running to see what new stories we had for them.

A great display of their books.
This school is one of the hardest ones to reach. The road is long and very bumpy. If it had rained the night before we might not have been able to go, but luckily we had a 4X4 truck and a good local driver who knew how not to get stuck in the mud. The beautiful, lush scenery near the school almost made up for the bad roads.

This school was visited by Volunteers Kira and Alice Gartell in July 2011.

Escuela Niño Perdido, Salama

El Niño Perdido is a school that Books for a Better World has been helping for several years.  It is located about an hour away from Salama, Guatemala.  The road is paved and curvy, but pretty good by Guatemalan standards.  

Each classroom has some books, appropriate for the grade level and almost all donated by BBW.  Mili Reyes, a dedicated teacher and BBW supporter, worked at this school until recently.  She made sure that reading was incorporated as an important part of every grade's curriculum.  Each classroom has a shelf just for books donated by Books for a Better World.

BBW volunteers visited almost every class.  The 5th and 6th graders had fun reading tonguetwisters about wild animals and giving loud applause for those who repeated them most rapidly.  The 3rd and 4th graders enjoyed reading with us.  They enthusiastically volunteered to help us read, and recieved a BBW pencil as a token prize for their efforts.  One book described animals that could jump very high.  We asked which child could jump the highest.  At first, only boys tried jumping.  Then a girl volunteered to jump as high as she could.  I was delighted that she won and she recieved some crayons for her efforts.  We read silly stories to the youngest children, and loved hearing them laugh at the silly antics in the books. 

It is lovely when BBW volunteers return to schools like this one for several years, as we can see the students' excitement at receiving a new box of books. 

Annalisa Cardon and Alice Gartell, BBW volunteers, visited this school in July 2011. 

Escuela Aldea La Laguna, Salamá

Escuela Oficial mixta Aldea La Laguna, La Laguna for short, had its first visit by Books for a Better World volunteers this summer, 2011.  The school had no story books at all, just textbooks and workbooks for the students in grades 1 – 6.  The school director/principal was very pleased to receive the box of books. 
La Laguna is in a farming area just about 20 minutes down the road from El Tunal, a very successful school that has been using BBW books for several years.  The director at El Tunal suggested that we start giving books to La Laguna, and it was a very good idea. 

The students welcomed us warmly.  We read books to them and with them, depending on the ages.  During a free reading period, several young girls really enjoyed being with volunteer Annalisa.  They read to her, shared a few prize stickers, and especially liked her pretty red hair.   

Volunteer Annalisa adored by the children

Volunteer Alice read a silly story to the youngest children in a circle.  We especially loved the smiles of the two boys reading together.  As always, these smiles make all of our efforts worthwhile.  

This was the first year for donations to this school, but it certainly won’t be the last. 

Annalisa Cardon and Alice Gartell, BBW volunteers, visited this school in July 2011. 

Escuela Aldea El Tunal, Salamá

Escuela Oficial Mixta Aldea el Tunal, El Tunal for short, is a wonderful school that has participated in Books for a Better World for several years. Bookshelves in each classroom proudly displayed books donated in previous years by Books for a Better World.

The Director/principal is fabulous, and strongly encourages reading in all of the classes.  For example, the teachers told us that each class reads for 30 minutes every single day.  This has made a huge difference in the reading levels and accomplishments of the students.  This school is a great example of the combination of donated books AND a dedicated group of teachers who use them to improve instruction and increase literacy.
After a few years of BBW donations and dedicated teachers, the students associate reading with fun and learning.  At El Tunal, the students told us their favorite books, and also knew all about the books because they had read them several times.  They were very excited to receive new books, especially favorites such as Curious George, dinosaurs, and princesses.   

As volunteers read stories, students eagerly volunteered to walk around the class showing the books to all of the students.  

The older students also volunteered to read a page from the book to the class.  Each volunteer received a Books for a Better World pencil for their efforts.  The volunteers received lots of smiles and even a few hugs. 

Annalisa Cardon and Alice Gartell, BBW volunteers, visited this school in July 2011.