The Reading Club: Nurturing Relationships in a Neighborhood Surrounded by Violence

Starting in the early 2010s, access to quality education for all has been at the heart of ATD Fourth World’s priorities. In this series, you will learn about the work done by ATD Fourth World teams in the field of education, including early childhood education.

In the months ahead, this website will feature regular publications featuring ATD’s educational achievements. These accounts tell the story of ATD Fourth World initiatives and their collaborations with children, families, and communities.

We will explore teams dedicated to supporting specific aspects of children’s lives and development. One team aims to reinforce family ties, another assists with children’s schooling and academic success, while another contributes to the cultural enrichment of neighborhood children…

Each of these narratives threads together to form a vibrant framework for a society that can offer quality education for all — including children in poverty.

This month, ATD Fourth World Guatemala brings us the story of the creation and development of Guatemala City’s Zone18 Reading Club.

In an isolated neighborhood of Guatemala with a history of crime, it is often dangerous for residents to spend time outside and move about freely. Because of the danger gang violence poses to children playing outside, the street library run by ATD Fourth World Guatemala could no longer be held safely.

This narrative describes how the community and Volunteer Corps members rallied together to find a way to continue to provide books to children of all ages in the absence of a street library.

“From house to house”

David Jean, an ATD Fourth World Volunteer Corps member in Guatemala in 2018, and Doña Raquel, an activist living in the neighborhood, recount how team members and parents surmounted the challenge of getting books to children. Through innovative thinking and teamwork, they succeeded in reaching the most excluded children by mobilizing the library “from house to house,” bringing books directly into children’s homes.

The determination of the community and its volunteers to distribute books ensured that children could continue to read and be inspired and engaged by stories. Additionally, bringing books into families’ homes has helped to rebuild community links and strengthen family bonds.

This story shows how access to books and engaging stories has given children, like Priscilla, a sense of fulfillment. It also makes clear the positive impact the program has had on parents. This month we are inspired by the way David, the ATD Fourth World Guatemala team, Doña Raquel, and the other families forged paths and found novel ways to both activate the community and foster reading skills that spark young people’s imagination. As Veronica, who took part in the program says:

“Reading is important to me. Books help me develop my mind, my imagination. As long as I read, I become the protagonist of the story and I forget everything else. Reading makes me happy, I want my son to experience this. We learn with time, thanks to the people around us, but for me, books have been important. […] Books have taught me to be a good mother.”

Read the story about the Reading Club on our Together in Dignity Blog.

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