The books in La Cometa Lectora (Reading Kite) library are not your average books; each has been carefully selected to provide learning opportunities. Many provide examples of admirable values or character (such as sharing, striving to reach one’s dreams, helping others, overcoming difficulties) through coming to know human or animal characters (in many countries, habitats or imaginary places!). Others are designed to help readers learn about geography, animals, or the human body. Although there are other books in the Reading Kite library, those used so far in Cometa visits have included the most basic of ‘board books’ (books printed on thick paperboard pages for our toddlers) up to basic chapter books.
A few weeks ago I was thrilled to able to buy over 20 new books for La Cometa (again, thanks to support from Chalice, but this time through funding from child sponsorship, rather than the Gift Catalogue). My Cometa helper Sylvia and I spent over three hours in Chiclayo’s best ‘librería‘ to do so, an extreme pleasure, honour and joy, but also a challenging task as we were not about to buy just any books.
We bought some great storybooks (these are rough translations of the titles): ‘Princesses also wear hiking boots’ (which drives home the idea that girls can do anything they set their minds to and comes to the conclusion that ‘being a princess’ really only means feeling happy with and accepting yourself, both inside and out), ‘The pieces of the puzzle’ (about how everyone has a role to play in society), ‘Santiago the dreamer’ (about a boy determined to act in his school’s theatre production, actually written by Ricky Martin—who knew he had published a children’s book), ‘In the garden’ (about taking care of one’s stuffed animals after playing with them), etc. In addition to buying quality storybooks, I was insistent that we also buy a book for young readers about musical instruments, a detail-packed book all about insects and spiders and another about great inventions.
I also found great books from the publisher Latin Books called “If you were a circle” and “If you were a triangle”; both were hits in La Ladrillera, where I incorporated them into the beginning of two consecutive drawing sessions. After reading “If you were a circle” with participation from the older (9 and 10 year old) students, many of the artists continuosly asked to look at the book while they worked on their drawings. Five year old Angela even came up to me and showed me the last page of the book, containing information about its publication and the three other books in the series; she pointed to the small picture of the book called “Un Signo Más” (“An addition sign”) and asked me if I could bring it to the next session. Unfortunately, we had only bought the book about the circle and the triangle, so I told her we did not have it, but that we had the one called “If you were a triangle”. She responded in a self-assured voice, “Bueno, entonces, me lo traes para la otra sesión, por favor. ” (“O.K., then, bring it for me in the next session, please”). I was shocked, in a very good way. News spread and soon many of the children knew I had committed to bringing it. And when I showed up the following Thursday, were they ever waiting to get to reading it.
Yesterday afternoon the little artists in La Ladrillera had their first visit from La Cometa! On the right are the mother who lends us her living room and the youngest of her two daughters.
Last year I also ordered (from Amazon) two books about the lives of famous Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo (had there been one about a famous Peruvian artist, I would have bought it too, but finding quality Peruvian children’s books is no easy task). On the first day of the intensive four-week art class I am offering (that will conclude on Monday with an exhibition of all the works), I mentioned and showed the works of painters from around the world, including Rivera and Kalho. The 20 artists in the class come from five different sectors that have all received visits from La Cometa and I always encourage them to read the books about Rivera and Frida, reminding them that they already know a bit about them from the art class. Learning should be about connecting the dots, right? (If only educational systems used that common sense model). You anglophones can probably spot at least one book you are familiar with. Good Peruvian children’s books are hard to come across and are sometimes just as expensive as books imported from Spain, the U.S.A. or Latin American countries. In order to create a sense of Peruvian identity, we have purchased many recently published Peruvian books, but they are not necessarily as popular with our readers as imported ones.
This little girl in Puerto Eten this afternoon was reading a book on her own, but became more interested in helping her neighbour read ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle when she realized he didn’t yet know how to read. It takes a lot for a children’s book to be attractive to a child: besides the text itself, it must have meaningful illustrations (preferably brightly coloured), effective formatting, and of course, an original title never hurts.
And for those wondering how all these books are transported…
…meet the travelling suitcase that La Cometa Lectora moves around in. This afternoon, my helper Sylvia and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take La Cometa just one block past the street where the educational program in Puerto Eten takes place…to the Pacific Ocean! ‘The travelling suitcase’ was a contender for a name for the library, but we didn’t want our program to sound like the names of any others and realized that a kite evokes some of what we want to promote with this program (namely, dreaming: of new possibilities, goals, realities, etc.). The kids of Puerto Eten are already planning on making they own kites to fly at the beach to celebrate La Cometa Lectora–I can’t wait to hear about it!