Promoting literacy in the midst of a pandemic

Guatemala ranks in the bottom quartile in the world for youth literacy and primary school completion. And that was before the pandemic. Now, children are falling even further behind due to ongoing school closures.

In a recent report from UNICEF, findings from UNESCO state that “over 3.1 million children across the region (Latin America) are in danger of dropping out of school. The longer schools remain closed, the less likely it is that the most vulnerable students —including girls, children with disabilities, migrant children and those from indigenous communities— will ever return”.  The need to keep students engaged in learning has never been more important. 

For the past few years, children in MM partner communities have enjoyed an annual reading festival to improve their literacy skills and help them fall in love with reading. Students engaged in literacy related activities, performed plays, and discovered the magic of reading. Unfortunately, it was not possible to run the reading festival in 2021. With the help of student leaders, MM Education Coordinators devised a plan to reach the students through a virtual reading festival. 

With the support of their parents and Mil Milagros, student leaders across 11 schools created their own literacy videos from home. These young leaders read books, performed puppet shows, recited poems, and sang songs. During April and May, the videos were shared on social media, Whatsapp, and local cable television for all children in Santa Lucía Utatlán and beyond to enjoy. 

Children performing puppet show while mother films
Estuardo and his sister Adriana perform a puppet show for the reading festival

Many students do not have access to books at home, so it has never been more important to connect them with story books and literacy activities through video. When it is safe to do so, students will return to their classrooms where they will have access to a library full of books thanks to MM supporters. 

The virtual reading festival has been a great experience for student leaders, who have had the opportunity to be creative and inspire others to fall in love with reading. And share their work with more than 30,000 local cable viewers! By encouraging young leaders to take on these types of projects they learn public speaking skills, gain confidence, and stay engaged with their leadership duties even while not physically at school. We are incredibly proud of these young leaders sharing their love of reading with their communities!