Unlike many foundations Puedo Leer's mission is simple, we want to bring the joy of reading to the children and people of Nicaragua. Yes, through the success of our libraries and programs we hope we will affect their education, their careers, their goals and their family home life but the thrust is to introduce more people here to reading.
It is hard to imagine schools without textbooks, homes without books and scant access to libraries let alone the ability to borrow books. All of which we take for granted in the developed countries. Reading for pleasure is virtually unknown here even for those few lucky enough to get a college education and most of the children do not make it through grade school for carious reasons which is a topic for another time.
So how many people do we affect with our libraries and programs? Our main library sees the most activity with three to four hundred books checked out each month. Many more use the main library to just get a book and read there, to do their homework with the reference materials and to socialize with friends. It is a community center for the area where games can be played and just do what children do together. Our two reading corners do the same on a smaller scale since they are smaller and have fewer books. Carol, Helen and Ruth have also set up many community centers/libraries in the Granada area and helped many other organizations in other locations within Nicaragua.
But we reach the most children with our book deliveries to the 27 local schools in the Granada area. Every two weeks bags of books are delivered to each school to allow the teacher to read a book a day to the children. For the older children chapter books are delivered. Two weeks later the books are swapped for other books to ensure they have a continuous supply of different books. Again, it is hard to believe that so few schools have books to read for pleasure. In fact many teachers needed classes on how to read stories to children. With the book delivery program we are touching thousands of young lives.
Add to this, the multiplier effect where having one child learn the joy of reading may lead their friends, sisters, brothers and other family members to also begin the road to books. Statistics show that those that like to read generally do better in school so we have another multipler effect.
So how many lives have we affected? We really do not know but it is many of thousands. Seeing one child discover the magic of reading is wonderful and fulfilling. Seeing a roomful of children listening to every word of a reading is beyond imagination. We are seeing a difference already.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) - November 2nd.
Nicaragua has a holiday similar to Halloween. Los Dias de los Muertos, the Days of the Dead, is a traditional Central American and Mexican holiday honoring the dead. It is celebrated every year at the same time as Halloween and the Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1st and 2nd). Los Dias de los Muertos is not a sad time, but instead a time of remembering and rejoicing.
In the homes families arrange ofrendas or "altars" with flowers, bread, fruit and candy. Pictures of the deceased family members are added. In the late afternoon, special all night burning candles are lit - it is time to remember the departed - the old ones, their parents and grandparents.
The next day the families travel to the cemetery. They arrive with hoes, picks and shovels. They also carry flowers, candles, blankets, and picnic baskets. They have come to clean the graves of their loved ones. The grave sites are weeded and the dirt raked smooth. The crypts are scrubbed and swept. Colorful flowers, bread, fruit and candles are placed on the graves. Some bring guitars and radios to listen to. Some families will spend the entire night in the cemeteries.
The celebration of Los Dias de los Muertos, like the customs of Halloween, evolved with the influences of the Celtics, the Romans, and the Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day but with added influences from the Aztec people of Mexico.
In coordination with Amy Bushnell's studio Centro de Arte, Puedo Leer helped the children of the library prepare for the Day of the Dead. Fourteen children gathered at the art center with the older ones making papier-mache masks and the younger ones making the calacas (skeletons). Ruth and Argentina from the library along with Eduardo and Amy from the art center helped coordinate the activities.
See the attached pictures.
Luis Garay is on our board of directors and is one of the original founders of Puedo Leer. This past week the Cultural Center in Managua provided an announcement party of Luis' new children's book Mi Delantal (My Apron). Luis both wrote and illustrated this wonderful tale of a young girl receiving her first apron somewhat a coming of age story.
Living in Granada he is constantly doing research for his book projects and working full-time as a children's book illustrator, making use of his favorite painting techniques: aquarela and acrylic.
He has been called one of the best young Latin American illustrators working today.
Always showing great commitment to the people of his country and of Latin America in general, he has been the recipient of many prizes. They include the Blue Ribbon Award, presented to him by the Bulletin of the Centre for Children's Books for his illustrations of Jade and Iron (Groundwood Books, 1996). He also received the Illustrated Children's and Youth Book Prize.
For more info on Luis visit his website by clicking here,
At Puedo Leer we never miss an opportunity to celebrate a special event, and Independence Day, one of the more important holidays, is no exception. Actually Nicaragua gained independence from Spain in September of 1821, at which time most of Central America joined the Mexican empire, though this union only lasted a few years. Subsequently, the Federation of Central American States, also short-lived, was formed. Finally, Nicaragua became a sovereign state in April 1838, but the holiday continues to be celebrated in September.
Traditionally, people hang the blue and white Nicaragua flag from their houses and there are many festivities and commemorative activities carried out in schools and other national institutions, over the first two weeks of the month. On the final day of celebration, usually during a 3 or 4-day weekend, the school marching bands are out in full force. What one may think is a major earthquake is simply the deafening roar of 100 drums – and no other instruments – pounding to the same beat simultaneously, coming right down the street.
This year in the library, our volunteer Rafael led teams of children in a quiz game focused on Nicaraguan history and independence. The children performed splendidly and everyone was treated to cookies and a party. Next holiday coming up end of October will be Day of the Dead, another fun, albeit less serious holiday.
The Puedo Leer Team