When eight-year old Kevin stood up and recited the poem he wrote with flair and a strong voice, I nearly cried. Two years ago he was a shy little boy who could barely read.
A few years ago we tried a pilot reading festival for farm children with our partner in Nicaragua, Prodecoop. While the clown, the balloons and the music were fun, the small reading circles we created were the biggest hit – with the kids AND with their parents. Afterwards, we talked to the parents to see if this kind of program had meaning to them. They universally agreed that they did, and asked if we could make this a year-round program. We agreed, and the reading circles, using Prodecoop volunteers going out to remote villages, has been a smash hit.
Yet the best part of the project has been how Prodecoop has embraced, taken over and sculpted the project to the needs of their communities. Under the management of Noheli, a child educator, and Merling, the irrepressible General Manager of Prodecoop, the program has gone out and purchased books they felt best represented the values of their families. The kids are now writing their own stories and the project turns them into printed books, which the kids take home and read to their parents and friends. This in turn has led to illiterate parents asking to learn how to read. (Interestingly, I saw the same thing while working with Maori people in New Zealand decades ago. The children were learning Maori language in a special program and then speaking to their parents, who had largely lost their language. It led to a resurgence of the language as the parents wanted to learn too.)
We planted the seed by bringing the idea to Prodecoop. They took it and ran with it, creating a robust and powerful program that is raising literacy rates for kids and parents throughout their far-flung rural farming communities. That’s what is behind your morning cup!