Reading is Fundemental

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The importance of reading can never be underestimated. There is boat-loads of literature showing that children who read perform better in school, have a significance increase in vocabulary, are more tolerant and understanding of other cultures different than their own, etc., etc. In fact, reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background. In simple terms, reading is fundamental.

As our program has grown, we have evolved according to the needs and wants of our students. From the very beginning, we have had a fully loaded library available for our students and the community here in Volcanes. However, with the advent of technology, video games and cell phones who put the world’s information in the palm of your hand, our library had become a relic of the past. It was rare to see kids checking out books and actually reading them.

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.” – Descartes

For the past two years we have explored ways in which to get our kids reading again. We had the teachers reading to them in the classroom as part of their curriculum. We had reading contests with prizes for most books read. And nothing seemed to work. It felt like a constant uphill battle.

Enter Maestra Marcella Mangarelli. With the help of Dr. Jennifer Lawson, a well-known teacher and author from Canada who is a big part of our program, we were able to get in touch with Maestra Marcella. Maestra Marcella is originally from Argentina. She was interested in helping us revamp our reading program and volunteered to come here to Volcanes for an entire week to help us implement a reading program that would work. From the get-go Maestra Marcella made a huge impact. Her energy and enthusiasm were palpable and the students and teachers were all in. The first thing Maestra Marcella did was make our library comfortable. “If you want kids to read, you have to give them a comfortable space in which to do it,” she told us as she began to move desks and chairs out of the room. She then re-organized our bookshelves to make them more attractive and friendly for our students. These were simple changes, but it has made a big difference. Maestra Marcella donated close to 20 cushions so students could lay on the floor while reading and this definitely has made our library the place to be for them.

The best thing that Maestra Marcella did was to show all of our students how to make their own books, with unique designs from regular construction paper and other materials. Even our teenagers were excited when they made their own books. Maestra Marcella also created a student led library commission – “Comision de la Biblioteca” – which our students are taking very seriously. We are very excited about this reading project and will be working with Maestra Marcella through Skype to ensure we keep the momentum going in the right direction. After all, in our project, reading has become FUNdamental.

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