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Libros para Todos Achieves a New Milestone

Libros para Todos 4

By Fredric Dannen

In early 2013, the Mexican novelist David Toscana wrote an op-ed column for The New York Times entitled “The Country That Stopped Reading.” Toscana lamented that although baseline literacy—the ability to read a street sign or news bulletin—was rising in Mexico, “the practice of reading an actual book is not.” That same year, the outreach program called Libros para Todos (LpT) was created in San Miguel. LpT’s goal was, quite simply, to promote the joy of reading. Its prime target was the rural Mexican child between the ages of 9 and 12, who dutifully went to school and learned alfabetismo—the ABCs—but generally did not own a single book, and rarely, if ever, read for pleasure. Now approaching its fifth anniversary, LpT reaches over 500 children in 11 different rural communities. That figure is expected to more than double during the 2017–2018 school year, a new milestone for an organization that began as a modest experiment by a group of enthusiastic readers.

LpT, under its current director, Daniela Franco, has added several new initiatives, including teacher training workshops and a creative writing and art summer camp. However, LpT’s original initiative, called the Big Read, remains the core program. Each year, LpT selects an author who writes literate, intelligent children’s books in Spanish and buys enough copies of that author’s books to give to hundreds of schoolchildren. The children have about six weeks to read the book, and then the author visits their schools. The program is simple and effective. The schoolchildren are excited to receive the books, and, knowing they will soon meet the author, are highly motivated to read them.

This year’s author is Vivian Mansour, winner of the Premio de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil. In August, schoolchildren were presented with two of her books, one to own and one to read. The books are Flor del rayo, the story of an unusual 12-year-old girl selected by her community to fulfill a mystical role and ensure a good harvest; and La vida útil de Pillo Polilla, the tale of a rascal moth who eats books, until he learns how to read and becomes hungry for knowledge instead of paper. Mansour arrives in San Miguel on October 18 and will visit four communities over three days. On Saturday, October 21, between 11am and 2pm, Mansour will give a presentation at the San Miguel Playhouse, Av. Independencia 82, for about 100 schoolchildren. The event is open to the public.

LpT wants to expand even further, with the goal of three Big Reads per school year. The organization is supported mostly by small donations. Contributions may be made by visiting makingreaders.org. An Indiegogo.com fundraising campaign is also ongoing (visit that website and type “Libros para Todos” in the search box). Another funding source is the semimonthly Steinway Series concerts given at the Bellas Artes. The next concert, featuring the noted jazz pianist Daniel Wong, will take place on Thursday, October 19.

 

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