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

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. 

Escuela Santa Inés 1

Santa Ines Uno, is a k-6 school of mostly indigenous children.  This was the first year Books for a Better World visited this school in a very rural, remote, and mountainous area of Guatemala.    

 Volunteers reached the school by travelling along a curvy, bumpy dirt road, and then climbing a small hill up to the school.  The children came quickly to surround the volunteers, in part because they are not used to having visitors.  

The school director/principal was very happy to receive the BBW donation of books because the school had practically no books for the children to read.   He had worked at the school for 18 years, first as a teacher and now as a director.  During all of those years, he slept on a cot at the school during the week, and travelled home on the weekends to be with his family.  Such dedication!

The director gathered all of the students in the courtyard and then volunteers Allen and Alice read to them.  Although the children were not used to having stories read to them, they soon learned to love it.  We asked them to repeat key phrases in the stories and to make the sounds made by the animals.  Soon they were quacking like little ducks and saying bow wow like the puppy in the story.  It was fun to see their eyes light up with excitement as we read to them. 

Many of the children wore traditional clothing, handwoven skirts and embroidered blouses.  They wore very inexpensive rubber sandals and shoes.  Most of the girls had long braids.  The majority of the students drop out in or before sixth grade, to work in the fields, care for children, or marry very young.  

This year’s donated books will begin to show them that learning can be fun and to broaden their horizons. 

Alice Gartell and Allen Beach, BBW volunteers, visited this school in July 2011. 

More photos of 15 de Septiembre

view on the way to schools Union Centroamericana and 15 de Septiembre

waiting to hear some more stories

Getting to know their new books

reading new books

Reading about animals

Enjoying free reading time, counting the hormigas (ants)

reading together

Escuela San Jose Espinero - Wet, Slippery Trail to Progress

I stare at the jungle trail and wonder what lies ahead. I’ve seen other schools and know what to expect but this is different. This is the real jungle. How different life must be than what I am accustomed to, maybe even what the kids in town are used to.
      The trail is wet and green and the air is thick with vapor. My partners and I come across a series of bulls and the trail is only wide enough for either the bull or us to pass. We decide since we are more agile than the bull on the trail to climb up off the trail and let the bull pass. The plan works and we continue onward with our journey. As the rain showers continue on and off during our hike the trail becomes more draining as it turns to thick deep mud. The raincoats have been pulled over our backpacks to ensure the mission is completed without delivering wet books. How embarrassing would that be?
      Up and down the trail goes and we can now see the valley of green jungle with small waterfalls splashing down the side of mountains in far view across from us. The beauty of the jungle can’t be described through words or pictures. The skies are misty and we are now walking through the clouds and the air seems thicker than before. Deeper breathes are needed to keep our legs moving and I can feel the water sliding down my legs to my feet. My toes feel sandy with wet mud in and out through my trekking shoes.
      After two hours of hiking the clouds move past the mountain trail and we can finally see what is up ahead. I can see corn stalks high reaching the sky. Beyond in the distant I see boys running through a muddy field kicking a soccer ball. The mud, the rain, and the jungle are not match for the boy’s passion for the game. They kick the ball around to each other while wearing sun faded red to pink baseball caps and rain boots. As we reach the school the boys run to the class room and we are greeted with amazing smiles as if they knew our purpose. We reach for our backpacks and pull the dry children’s books that have journeyed from the states, the wet jungle, and into this classroom of children. The smiles grow bigger and the kids are trying their best to control their excitement. We hand the books out and the kids immediately know what to do with them. They were ferocious readers and tore into the books like a lion feasting on its prey. It only took minutes for some of the children to finish reading the book that had come so far. The children were then asked to describe the book they had just consumed with their mind. As if reading it again they described each of their books almost word for word. Now it was us who were smiling and trying our best to contain our excitement. I’ve never met Kay Robb the founder of Books For A Better World but whatever her feeling was that day when she envisioned the idea of bringing children’s books to poverty stricken schools I think it was that moment we experienced that she had in mind.
      Still numb from the experience I had just been a part of we journeyed back through the trail. Racing step for step trying to beat the darkness that would soon fall on the jungle I was still thinking of the children and the teacher. An amazing man who asks for no praise, he walks this trail daily to teach these children we were blessed to meet. Still fresh in my mind was the children disappearing into the jungle to their homes with the new books they had received. I couldn’t help thinking about the experience and how it touched me even for a brief period of my life. The smiles, the little hands holding the books tight against their bodies, the teacher’s passion for his students. These are the memories I will never forget and keep in my soul until the next journey and smile I encounter while delivering books for a better world. Your browser may not support display of this image. 
-Dax Ramirez, Volunteer

Escuela 15 de Septiembre, Nuevo Juncales

This school is a small 2 room, K-6 school with 60 students. The school is up a long, bumpy dirt road, in the middle of the mountains.
Entrance to the school, 15 de Septiembre

The director, Cinthia, was a very vibrant young lady who lives in Tegucigalpa, but travels over an hour each day to get to this small school. She is also studying at the university on the weekends. She has been the director of the school for less than a year, but the kids really seem to love her. She was very enthusiastic about recieving the books because they have very few books in their library.

Library with only 1 shelf of story books, 
all from Books for a Better World

The school has a separate room for a library, but they don't have electricity. The director is trying to get electricity hooked up so that eventually the kids can go into the small library room, choose a book themselves, and read the book in the library. But right now it is just too dark for the kids to use the library. But the teachers do go and get books from there to use in their classroom.
This boy was so excited to get some harder books right away 
he started reading this biography about a baseball star.

In one room, Cinthia teaches grades 1, 3, and 5, while the other teacher, Delmi, teaches grades 2, 4, and 6. The teachers have the older kids read to the younger kids to help them learn to read.

The students favorite types of books are story books and tongue twisters.

This little one is learning all about different animal, 
while wearing his smock/uniform

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