By Lauren Vander Zanden
In the afternoon at Ometepe we had planned to do activities with the community, such as read-alouds, face-painting, coloring, and other crafts however there were a large number of children already at the library when we came back from lunch and it seemed like the number of people grew exponentially. There were soon far too many children and on-lookers for the majority of the activities we had planned and there was barely enough standing room for everyone to fit on the patio, as it was many mothers stood on the sidewalk to watch the events. While it was an overwhelming number of people it was wonderful to see everyone gathered at the library.
I’m still wondering though about what it meant to have all of those people there. Why did they come? For the entertainment? To see what was going on? To celebrate the library? Or was it for a combination of all of those reasons? I still don’t know how the individuals there would express their reason for coming but I certainly won’t forget us tumbling out of the vans to be greeted by the image of a large group of children who had seated themselves around the tables and were very orderly and patiently waiting for the afternoon activities to begin.
We started the morning off by being completely packed onto the ferry, it seems like “maximum capacity” and “safety codes” are more American concepts than universal ones. The itinerary for the rest of the day was to drive to Granada, have lunch, tour Puedo Leer, and then have dinner at Zaguan before preparing for the workshop being held in the hotel the next day. I was very interested in going to Puedo Leer. Carol, the founder, had some very interesting things to say about her library and her mission. She made it very clear that their goal was not to promote literacy, or do ESL, or anything other than just to allow children to enjoy the joy of reading. I was intrigued by this simple mission and I wonder at how it will fare long term: will it be more successful because of its narrow focus, or will there be difficulties since the goal is so specific and there isn’t a great deal of room for expansion of programs.
While Carol describes the mission of the library in such pared down terms, they certainly do more than just operate the library. Another project that the library is involved in is providing books to local school teachers to read during breaks. The library has plain canvas bags that they fill with 10 books and then bring to local teachers. Each teacher gets a bag, and the bags are swapped out every 2 weeks for new bags. This gives each teacher one book to read every day to children and Carol said the response has been very positive. Many individuals in Nicaragua have never been read to before, or seen the type of children’s books that Puedo Leer provides. According to Carol teachers are finding their students more interested and attending school regularly since they want to see what book is going to be read each day. Puedo Leer is now also including two chapter books for teachers of older children so that the teachers can read one chapter each day, although this program has not been fully implemented yet. Given all of my past experience with Jane and her library initiative it was wonderful to see other libraries in Nicaragua and what they are doing.
This was my second time in Nicaragua and I have every intention of going again. I think what keeps me coming back are the people. So many of the people I have met are very warm and welcoming. I have greatly enjoyed working with the children there and even though I am hoping to be an academic librarian after graduation it was the time I spent reading or doing crafts with kids that was the most rewarding for me. I thought for my last post to “Dispatches from the Field” I would share some of my favorite photos from the trip.