The first book I ever read in Spanish was El Alquimista by Paulo Coelho. This brave, adventurous tale of self-discovery stuck with me and I’ve reread it several times since. Now, a handful of Few for Change scholars will also have the chance to read it! A table full of wide-ranging books for students to select from was a new feature at the 2018 Scholarship Ceremony and what a success! Library systems in cities and suburbs are often taken for granted, giving us access to pretty much any book we can think of. But for many, reading books for leisure is a foreign concept. Students in the Comarca have exposure to textbooks through their school but they aren’t up late reading a favorite fantasy or adventure novel. Books that help students discover a love of reading are difficult to come by.
While we started small this year, having each student choose one book to go along with their scholarship materials, the hope is to expand our collection and eventually create a lending library. Most of us are familiar with the concept of lending libraries. You know, those colorfully painted little houses on neighborhood corners filled with paperbacks? They give communities a chance to share stories they enjoyed. The geographically disparate nature of students’ homes and schools presents a challenge, making a central and accessible lending library location a little more difficult. But lending libraries can also be informal, as friends trade books with friends or leave them at their school for other students to read once they are finished.
Several organizations throughout Central America have set up community libraries. An Engineers Without Borders project last year laid the groundwork for a library and computer center in a different part of the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca. These types of projects are important for creating access to resources previously non-existent and broadening students’ horizons outside the classroom.
Throughout the ceremony, even parents could be seen bent over their child’s new books. One of our promotores, Agripina, whose son received the first Harry Potter book, explained to us how each evening she will pick it up and read a page or two. The joy of fiction stretches across generations and can become a whole family activity. We were excited to leave their household with the next books in the series. We hope that in the coming years, the number of books in the Comarca will continue to increase and will make the rounds from family to family. Huge thanks to those of you who donated to last year's book drive, and if you have any 1st-12th grade reading level books in Spanish that you don’t think you’ll need again, reach out! We would be happy to bring them with us to next year’s ceremony and keep the Comarca's collection of fun books growing.