Libros Para Todos Continues To Expand

By Fredric Dannen

Last February, the nonprofit organization Libros para Todos tried out a new and venturesome program for children, something of an experiment. Libros had been created in 2013 with the mission of inspiring young Mexicans to get excited about reading by distributing free books to hundreds of mostly rural children, and then having the authors of the books visit the kids’ schools. This pilot program, called the Big Read, was an instant success—a “dream come true” in the words of one child—and it remains an annual event. The success of the Big Read prompted Libros director Daniela Franco to ask whether children could be motivated to get excited about writing. So, in February, Libros launched its first Young Writers Workshop, held in the ground-floor literary sala at the Bellas Artes.

“I said the creative writing workshop would be open to twenty kids between the ages of 10 and 12,” Franco recalls. “And all the way from Dolores Hidalgo, an 8-year-old named Akira Arredondo came by bus with his dad. He had heard about the workshop and wanted to be included. Akira said afterward that it was one of the coolest things he ever did.” Though Libros had been conceived as a motivating force, it turns out, Franco says, “We don’t have to convince children to read and write so much as provide the opportunities to do so.”

Franco, who was appointed director of Libros para Todos in 2015, has added several other new programs during her tenure. This year, for instance, Libros assembled two “pop-up” libraries—portable collections of about two hundred books—which are transported two months at a time to rural schools lacking libraries of their own. So far, Franco says, the two hundred titles, ranging from picture books to young adult classics, such as Robinson Crusoe and Little Women, have on average been checked out twice over.

Other new programs include teacher-training workshops to inculcate in school teachers themselves more effective methods of teaching literature to elementary school children and, this July, Libros’s first-ever weeklong summer camp, focusing on creative writing and art. Open to about twenty children between the ages of 9 and 12, the summer camp will be run by award-winning children’s author Duncan Tonatiuh and other volunteers.

For Libros’s many initiatives, funding has come from several different sources. The pop-up library books, for instance, were purchased with a grant from the San Miguel Community Foundation. Libros received a generous one-time contribution from the San Miguel chapter of 100 Women Who Care. The Skot Foreman Gallery provides an annual donation. The quasi-monthly Steinway Series concerts at the Bellas Artes—the next is a classical piano trio concert at 7pm on Friday, May 19—is another source of revenue.

But, Franco says, as Libros continues to expand, donations are still sorely needed. The free summer camp costs Libros about 1,500 pesos per child. More information about Libros para Todos can be found on its English-language website, makingreaders.org, and its Spanish-language site, creandolectores, org.

 

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