The Library as a Safe Haven
Our mission is to bring the love of reading and books to the children of Nicaragua. Two weeks ago we had an incident that showed me very strongly how the love of reading can also bring a sense of safety and peace to children. Something I had learned at an early age too.
On Thursday afternoon when I dropped by the library to see how a new Nicaraguan volunteer was doing with her first meeting with the children for a special project on protecting the environment (she actually couldn’t make it as there was a family emergency), there were many children and several mothers waiting in the library on Santa Lucia Street.
As I went out to get something from my car, Ivania, our librarian came after me to tell me to remove my car from this area as there were two youth gangs preparing for a ‘turf war’. Sure enough as I looked both south and then north I could see ganga of young men preparing by picking up rocks etc. I hurriedly drove my car to the next street over and parked it in front of the gym. I told the young man at the desk I was leaving my car there for safety and walking back to the library. He warned me not to and in fact as I walked down the side street several other people warned me. I did not wish to leave Ivania, the mothers and the children stranded in the library and obviously it wasn’t safe for them to leave.
By the time I reached the library there were police with each group so that was reassuring. When I entered the library I found all the children seated at the back with a young neighbour, Rafael a university student, reading a Robert Munsch book to them. He had the whole group of about 15 children laughing and making the animal sounds to go along with the story. They were totally involved and oblivious to the tension out on the street.
It hit me once again how books can transport a child (or anyone for that matter) to other places that provide a period of safety, if only in the imagination.
I was thrilled that Rafael Lopez had immediately established a safe space for the children to wait out the problem out on the street using a book. By the end of the story most of the children and the mothers were able to walk home and I was able to drive the group that had come from the hotel reading room back there so all were safe.
Thank you Rafael for reminding me of this power of books and for teaching it to the children of Nicaragua.