The Riecken Community Libraries Network on the International Literacy Day
According to the First Steps blog1, from Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents (father and mother) read aloud to their children from birth. According to this blog, “reading fairytales not only helps children to improve their vocabulary, but to recognize figures through the illustrations, to develop their comprehension skills, and to stimulate their interest in stories books. All this will affect their future lives, improving their analytical skills and theirs school performance”.
However, the educational and cultural reality of Latin America is characterized by a large number of people who declare that they cannot read or write; the most affected are in the northern triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras). Through various educational programs, Honduras and Guatemala have seen their illiteracy rates drop, but there are still many challenges to overcome. Riecken’s programs have been successfully addressing these challenges by involving civil society in the school and cultural education process, and promoting the spirit of discovery thought the joy of reading.
The Individuals, who possess the spirit of discovery, have the ability to try new things, start new projects and participate in the social life of their communities. Through reading, people can find solutions to problems and answers to their questions. Reading also encourages new ideas and creativity. Therefore, reading leads to discovery and the discovery leads to the prosperity. The reading program of Riecken Community libraries creates and strengthens the habit and joy of reading in the rural communities where the libraries exist. This program is designed to promote reading in children and adults by making reading fun and accessible. Librarians, volunteers, and parents are trained on how to read aloud and story time techniques. This training and the practice of reading aloud helps children develop a positive relationship with reading from an early age. For teenagers and adults, Book Clubs have been formed to promote reading as a social activity and a source of enjoyment and camaraderie.
Riecken’s libraries are also seen as “Bebetecas” (Libraries for babies)
The Riecken Foundation believes that reading to children from an early age (0-5 years), stimulates the mind, develops language, and builds a base to ensure the success of reading in the future. The parents are childrens’ first teachers; so they need to be provided with tools and activities they can do with their families to promote reading at an early age and develop a reading habit that will continue throughout life. Riecken’s programs are aimed develop language skills, vocabulary, pre-reading, as well as creating positive experiences with books. Parents also learn techniques and that they practice with their children. Essentially, the community libraries promote six pre-reading skills that mother, father and baby can develop from birth:
- Motivation to Books: sparking the interest in children to enjoy books, with the purpose of promoting an approach to them.
- Vocabulary: in the first week of life, the baby can vocalize at the same time that mother does.
- Becoming familiar with the writing: engage the children with reading, use exercises that show drawings, shapes, people, and animals, not only with figures but with written words.
- Knowledge of sounds: help children acquire the ability to hear and play with sounds.
- Narrative skills: librarians can relate stories and tales to children and help develop the skills in reading readiness.
- Letter knowledge: the children begin to learn their first letters.
The Riecken Community Libraries successfully promote literacy and the reading and writing practices in rural communities. It is the ideal complement to the effort made by the formal education sector. This integrated approach helps promote the practices of reading and writing in the life of the community. Building a literate ambience is an essential step before creating literate people. It’s also a way to help address the lack of reading skills and the environments that don’t promote literacy, which can sometimes be found in formal school settings. 2
 Openjuru, George. Adult literacy and its link to development In: DVV International, http://www.iiz-dvv.de/index.php?article_id=336&clang=3 (consultation: September 9, 2014)