Group story time; Girls reading on a rug

To me, having a library is something so common place in schools that I often found it more of an obligation than a luxury.  I can’t tell you how many books I “read” in my high school Lit class. (Kicking myself for that now.) In fact, I didn’t even notice the absence of a library when I first arrived at site. That is – until I began to want materials for my English class. I finally realized the complete lack of resources at the hands of the teachers. Not only are English titles few and far between, books in Spanish are super expensive. Literature is just not accessible to schools here on the coast.

I knew I wanted to do a big project my second year at site so I sat down with my principal to brainstorm ideas. Luckily, we both agreed that the lack of reading being done in IED Minca was a serious issue that was affecting many aspects of the students’ lives. So we began the grant writing process to create  “Portal para la vida-de Minca para el mundo” which is a really flashy way to say bilingual library.

The main goal of the project was to create a comfortable, inviting space to entice the students and community members to enter and read. We might have gone a little overboard (I’ve definitely come across people sleeping in the hammocks) but I love the way it turned out. There are over 500 titles in both Spanish and English. We have audio books and e-books as well in order to offer every possible opportunity to the 21st century reader.

The project was absolutely a community effort. Students, teachers and community members did all of the manual labor and often giving up their Saturdays.

Before and after reading room

The library is run by students completing their hours for labor social and is now the most sought-after job in school. It is open to community members in the afternoon and on Saturdays, and the idea for the future is to use the library as the venue for book clubs and story-hour. As this is something completely new for the school, little problems often arise. However, my school has been completely open and willing to help work out the issues.

Writing a grant is not for the weak of heart. In fact, as I write this and up to my ears in grant documents, I want to scream, “DON’T DO IT! STAY AWAY!” However, the rewards are totally worth the effort that goes into it. I will never forget the reactions of my students when they saw the books I had bought for them in Spanish. It was the best moment of my service.  I truly thank Peace Corps for giving me the opportunity to be a part of something so special.

Caitlin with books; finished reading room

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