La Puerta Abierta Library and Learning Center

Rural schools in Guatemala function with the bare necessities…a chalkboard, wooden desks, miniature chairs and dusty shelves. School supplies are scarce and books are nearly non-existent.

For those students who are lucky enough to attend public school in rural Guatemala, most will learn to read. However, very few will learn to enjoy a good story or experience the pleasure of having adventures in reading. In Guatemala reading is taught via phonetics, and grammar is presented in rote exercises. Few students will have the opportunity to actually read a book, explore literary terms, and connect with novels during their elementary education. Even fewer will be encouraged to develop their critical thinking and comprehension skills through reading.

La Puerta Abierta strives to cultivate a culture of readers in the community of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. 96% of our students are Indigenous Tzu’tuhil Maya and are bilingual (Spanish-Tzu’tuhil). Many are first generation readers. We believe that all children deserve to have access to books, more specifically, books that they desire to read. In addition, we believe that students need to have time to read during the school day to ensure a positive experience with reading. La Puerta Abierta is soliciting funding to launch a reading circle program for our
3rd-6th grade students that will provide a guided reading experience for our children. The reading circle model allows for individual students in a reading group to each have a loaned copy of the same title of a novel and to read the book together, while accompanied by an adult mentor. Via reading the story as a group, students will have the opportunity to communally discuss literature, make personal connections with a novel, delve deeper into understanding the story, explore literary terms, expand vocabulary, create community, and build confidence in speaking in public.

Early contact with books and story telling is crucial to developing a student’s imagination, critical thinking and literacy skills. We hope that via access to books and reading circles, we can empower children become innovative problem solvers. Through developing their individual talents and confidence, we will prepare our students to become future agents of change and leaders in their community and the world at large.