Early childhood education is virtually non-existent in Guatemala, a country where half of the population lives below the poverty line. Books are a luxury that many cannot afford and for some children, their first year of school is the first time they have a story read to them.
Knowing that the most crucial and influential years of education occur very early on in a child’s life (ages 2-4 years old), Common Hope’s Early Childhood Reading Program Addresses the need for early childhood education.
Started in 2011 with only three families, the program has grown to serve 52 families from Antigua and the village of San Miguel Milpas Atlas in 2015. A program evaluation done in 2014 showed an increase in the frequency of parents reading to their children – parents went from reading with their children two times per month to two-four times per week.
In addition, the program evaluation showed that parents are:
- more likely to have a regularly scheduled reading time with their child
- more likely to be able to name their child’s favorite book
- more likely to have an affective bond
- twice as likely to ask their child to look for a figure in the illustration or predict what might happen next (rather than just reading the story)
- increase their use of the seven techniques for “reading through images,” from one to three.
This year, Common Hope will be making early childhood reading programs available in every community where we work. Not only will this ensure that children begin school with the skills they need, directly increasing first grade promotion rates, but it will also build a culture of reading in Guatemala.
The larger picture
By encouraging families to visit the Common Hope library and continue reading after they complete the program, Common Hope presents new opportunities to entire families and communities. In 2015, there were more than 2,700 visits to the library and over 3,600 books were borrowed or checked out.
Social workers who work very closely with the families are seeing the benefits of this program for the children and the parents. So much so that one mother who participated in the program was inspired to go back to school and is working to finish her primary school education.
“The program changes the way our families think about reading from something that is a chore to something that can be fun and creative,” said Alma, a social worker in San Miguel.
Ultimately, the program exposes every child and family to a new way of thinking about reading and getting ready for school. It’s MORE THAN just reading a story – families begin to see the world in a different way, creating a deeper, stronger, and more loving bond between them.