CANFRO’s Book Project
in conjuction wih our Oaxaca partner, LIBROS para PUEBLOS
The first time I saw a Libros para Pueblos library was several years ago in the small Zapotec village of Benitio Juarez. It is a lovely agricultural village at 10,000 feet, the countryside covered with tall ancient pines, giant cacti, and wild flowers. It had a small population (268 adults and 68 children) and a very dynamic young woman, Elizabeth (Elise) Oliivea, who was the volunteer librarian for the LPP library.
None of the children there had ever had a storybook in their home. Reading had not been a part of the tradition, and learning at school was mostly accomplished by rote.
Here was a golden opportunity. Elise soon had the kids so excited about books and reading that some walked two hours through the mountains to reach their library. And it was truly theirs. They were invested in it. They cleaned it, arranged the books, read and recommended books to each other. Some started reading to their parents and grandparents. Magic was in the air. Books were going into the homes, with little girls and boys taking care to tuck them under their shirts in the rainy season.
Before long, it began to occur in the village that there were more high school graduations, fewer migrations to the USA, and then, a small number of students going on to higher education in Oaxaca and Mexico City.
In 2010, Elise won Mexico Lee (Mexico Reads) the country’s highest national prize for promoting reading. She was invited to tour the country, attending conferences and giving lectures, but her true prize was back in her tiny village, her library. She wrote, “How this little project in the middle of nowhere got international recognition for promoting reading still awes me… this could not have happened without that inspirational donation of books from LIBROS PARA PUEBLOS”.
Since that time, two more LPP librarians have won this prize.
There are presently 30 indigenous communities in the state of Oaxaca who have applied for an LPP library. The 70 libraries currently operating across the state receive yearly infusions of books because, due to much use, books need to be replaced and new ones added.
In Oaxaca, we have witnessed that a donation to CANFRO’s Book Project (Libros para Pueblos) can change the life of an indigenous child, forever. Imaginations can be stimulated and critical thinking can become part of the culture.