Izote was founded to provide children’s books to rural public schools in El Salvador. Rural communities have been plagued by barriers to literacy for generations and most adults are only marginally able to read. While local Salvadoran community groups aspire to advance literacy, they have been hampered by the enormity of the task, the weak infrastructure of the schools and the lack of government assistance. Over time we learned that while providing books is crucial, more is required to increase literacy and engage students in learning. We have expanded our goals to include creating and funding dynamic school and community libraries that foster active learning.
Grassroots organizations comprised of rural villagers selected the schools that would receive the initial book collections. We received and distributed our first donation of 5,000 Spanish-language children’s books in 2011. The following year we shipped and distributed 30,000 more children’s books. Because of the coordinated efforts thousands of students in 23 schools were exposed to children’s books for the first time in their lives. Izote’s literacy project has been highly successful and demonstrates our ability to initiate creative ideas and coordinate with on-the-ground groups in order to achieve our goals.
Next Izote sponsored workshops attended by teachers and other educators on how to set up school libraries and use the books as tools for active learning. Teachers were taught to integrate the books into the curriculum in order to open children’s imaginations, foster analytic thinking skills and promote intellectual curiosity. It was inspiring to witness the joy and enthusiasm of educators and students who took active roles in establishing vibrant libraries in their schools.
Presently Izote is focusing our resources on five schools that have most successfully utilized and integrated the books and teaching methods that we have introduced. We are developing their book collections, sponsoring additional teacher training and making significant infrastructure improvements. These schools will serve as models of how to develop high quality sustainable school libraries.
Finding space to house the new libraries continues to be a challenge because the schools are underfunded and overcrowded. In order for the schools to have truly sustainable libraries, investment in capital improvements was required. Critical components of sustainable libraries are accessible display of books, comfortable places for children to read and be read to and tables to look at books on.
In order to create permanent and sustainable library spaces, Izote funded a variety of physical improvements. In a few schools we enclosed open windows and repaired leaking roofs. At one school we funded the enclosure of an outdoor assembly area. At another school we oversaw and funded the design and construction of a new addition.
Izote was also instrumental in creating community libraries in two rural areas and linking them to the Ministry of Culture’s nascent national library system. In one library Izote is funding annual stipends to pay young adults to run the library and lead reading programs. We also funded a computer to expand access to information and to link the library with other national libraries.
Thousands of schoolchildren and their families have benefitted from the school and community libraries, with teachers reporting marked improvement in the reading levels and active participation in learning of their students.
With your help Izote can continue to open the world of books and literacy to the children of El Salvador.