Our first school was an induction of the Culture of Reading Program (CORP) at the Pixabaj Primary School. This program is amazing as it teaches both Spanish to the children, but also attempts to instill a passion for reading. It is one thing to be able to read, but another thing to actually read. Or for that matter, have materials to read. Many Guatemalan children either cannot read or have nothing to read. This program brings picture books into the schools for these children to enjoy.
This program starts with the teacher reading one of these books every day to their students. This is one thing that has been missing in these schools. Moreover, it is designed as a way to teach the teachers how to teach in an engaging way. In the past, the teachers would simply lecture the students and there was no interaction between students and teachers. This program changes that trend.
The teachers must be certified for the CORP program. It is a two-year commitment and the CoEd staff are responsible for teaching them. Once they complete the initial instruction, they can begin to use these books to engage their students. This program does not cost the schools or students any money as everything is completely donated to them. However, they are improving the schools dramatically.
The process starts with the teacher giving them the new words they will learn in this book. They make it very interactive as they must sound out the words, then place the word on a wall under the appropriate letter the word begins with. Once they have done this, the teacher will read the book to them. On the second day, the students will dramatize the book so they can better comprehend the story.
On the following day, they will re-write their story in their own words into a big book that will be kept in the school. Finally, the students will partner with each other to write their own version of the books complete with pictures. This gives them even more books to take home and read on their own. It really is an amazing concept and one that has been tested around the world.
As always, the students perform ceremonial dances for us in appreciation for our efforts to help them with their education. These dances can be very moving and impressive. It makes you feel good the way they open their arms to us.
After the demonstration in the room, we had an opportunity to engage the students in various ways. We had Rotarians give our stickers and others blew bubbles for them. The students were fascinated with these items. I played both soccer and basketball with them. I must admit, I was winded after only a short time. It was partly due to my being out of shape and partly due to the altitude. This school was at about 6,00o ft above sea level. We will be as high as 12,000 feet above sea level during this trip.
In the afternoon, we visited the Jucanya Cooperative School here in Panajachel. This was a textbook induction and the mayor showed up for the ceremony. The principal mentioned that they had heard about this program for several years and had hoped they would be accepted into the program. Since it is not a free program, it shows how positive this program has been for rural Guatemala.
I apologize that I cannot add any photos, but I left my camera on the bus and could not take any at this school. It was apparent that the teachers and students were excited about having textbooks for the first time. They vowed that they would use them to improve their education while being very thankful for the opportunity.
This is the thing about the people of rural Guatemala. They know that the only way they are going to have a better future for their children and their nation is through education. I cannot stress this enough that they are hungry for knowledge and desperate to improve not only themselves, but their families and the country. It really warms your heart to see the students so excited to get a textbook. Are your children excited when they get their textbooks?
I will end here as it is getting late and I have to get up early. We will be leaving Panajachel and Lake Attilan tomorrow. I will blog tomorrow if I have Internet at the hotel is Xela. Last year, I could not get a signal, but hopefully, I will this year. If not, you will not hear from me for a few days as we will be staying there for 3 nights.