Much of my work at Centro Esperanza (C.E. or Hope Centre) involves operating a new project, a library called “La Cometa Lectora“. On a daily basis, educational staff and volunteers borrow books for use in their sessions, but the main purpose of the books is to take them on a rotating basis to the various shantytowns where Project Chiclayo educational programs take place.
It is very rewarding to see how excited the kids are about reading; this is something that current and former Project Chiclayo educators deserve recognition for, as they have exposed the children to storybooks and other reading material over many years and instilled in them a love for reading and learning. While some children definitely struggle, they are for the most part eager to continue improving. The sessions are making a difference already. For example, one six-year-old boy was visibly terrified of books in the first session he attended (and even refused to hold a small piece of paper with song lyrics); by the fourth session his anxiety had diminished and he eagerly chose several books to look at and also read with the help of an adult during the free reading time.
There have been many surprises during the 14 Cometa visits so far. When I explained to one group of children that the Reading Kite is a rotating library, one boy asked what a library was and it dawned on me that many of them would have never had the chance to visit a library, or a bookstore for that matter. I now make sure to ask the children during the first Cometa session if they know what a library is and explain/clarify in simple terms how one functions.
Here are some glimpses of countless precious moments shared between Project Chiclayo participants (children, mothers and one eager father) and educators…
My helper Sylvia reading a storybook with opening pockets with a young participant in Antonio Raymondi, a neighbourhood of La Victoria District where Project Chiclayo initially began.
Bonding between mothers and their children is a beautiful part of the sessions with younger participants. Antonio Raymoni has excellent mother participation, as well as that of one father. Having fathers participate in our educational programs is a constant challenge; many cannot attend due to their busy work schedules and others are not as interested in their childrens’ education as they should ideally be.
Nonetheless, their participation is something we aim to improve and there is always hope; as I took a convi (small van-style bus) home from La Ladrillera on Thursday, the man who charges passengers and opens the door (while another drives) happened to be the father of one of the youngest program participants I had just been working with in the drawing class. A friendly man, he was at first shy to speak, but there were few passengers on the bus and he slowly opened up to tell me that he is one of the Project Chiclayo parents who has returned to school (thanks to support from Chalice). He works from 6am to 9:30pm Monday to Saturday and studies at an adult education school on Sundays. He was proud to say that he will soon finish his second-last year of high school and plans on studying some type of engineering upon earning his high school diploma. He then humbly said, “Quiero aprovechar de la oportunidad de estudiar para poder dar a mi hijo un futuro mejor“; “I want to make the most of the opportunity to study to be able to give my son a better future”.
If that is not dedication, I don’t know what is.
We must constantly remind children to only take one book at a time (despite their eagerness),
that there will be time for them to read the other books that interest them later on.
After the group reading of ‘El Osito Teddy‘ (‘The Little Bear Teddy’, a storybook with a Spectacled/Andean bear in this coastal region of Peru as its protagonist), free reading time ensued in César Vallejo. It was then time for participants to write what the Reading Kite means to them on a bow to decorate the Reading Kite on the wall.
Their answers were just as creative as those of children in Nuevo San Lorenzo on
the inauguration of La Cometa on September 6th.
The first session with the group of older children in Antonio Raymondi involved the special visit of a friend and supporter of Centro Esperanza from Canada, a former elementary school teacher and specialist in literacy who managed to guide some girls in their reading with the translation assistance of the Director of Project Chiclayo who also visited that day.
The second session involved working in groups of four. Participants shared the task of reading,
did some oral reading comprehension and then completed some basic literary analysis
to be presented in front of everyone.
Younger participants were also tasked with drawing their favourite scene from their group’s storybook (above), while the two groups with older participants made small posters advertising the book and what could be learned from it.
So much has happened so far with the Reading Kite that I could probably write about it all night,
but more on La Cometa will come soon.
Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers. I will be working tomorrow (meeting with the Project Chiclayo psychologist to discuss some of our adolescents, translating, finishing the last day of the intensive art class series I am offering and attending my Peruvian zampoña, or pan flute, class with Project Chiclayo mothers and educators), but the thought of families and friends uniting to spend time together and give thanks will be with me.
Thanks for reading! ¡Gracias por leer!