Read to be Happy: Children and the Community Leading Educational Innovations in Lempira, Honduras

Abstract

 Presenter (s) Sara Nikolic, Program Manager, Plan International Canada; Haritz Goya, Education Advisor, Plan International Canada

To move education beyond traditional boundaries of western pedagogy towards the principle that learning is stimulated when not imposed, we need to open the educational transfer to community participation. This is what we have learned from the “Promoting the Culture of Reading in Children of Lempira” Blue Lupin Library Project, now in its fourth phase of implementation. Our chosen area of intervention, the Department of Lempira, is one of the most marginalized within Honduras, with lowest education (0.477) index and the second highest Human Poverty Index (36.6) in the country. The project, jointly implemented by Plan International Honduras, the Directorate of Education and relevant local governments, was initially conceived to encourage and promote a culture of reading through the construction of libraries in remote and under-funded schools in the region. However, embedded in the model was a role for the community, local governments and the children themselves to get involved in the use and management of these libraries. What has evolved as a result is a testament to the creativity of children when their horizons are broadened, and the power of communities that are eager to own and support opportunities for their children to learn. In this model of community ownership, there is no fixed librarian, nor a single source of knowledge. The children are invited to “read to be happy”, propelled forward by activities like storytelling, creative writing, film making, theatre and mimes. They are transformed into creators and disseminators of knowledge, and the “library” into a lived experience. It travels with the children and teachers, as learning and books are shared with peers from other communities, and as children share their enthusiasm and ability to read with illiterate parents. As a result, communities and educators have observed an improvement in reading habits and learning outcomes. Beyond that, we have seen children emboldened and encouraged to write stories around their experiences and dreams. We have seen them put on plays based on these stories and seen the local and national community of artists come together to support these works. Children, who until a few years ago, did not have access to libraries and had difficulty reading, have now gone ahead and published compilations of their own stories and theatrical productions. We have witnessed in this project, an evolution of a functional and sustainable model of children/community engagement, so much so that Hondurans are now advocating for scale up by national and local governments. This initiative is an example of how opening educational transfer to community participation fosters the ownership needed to ensure knowledge is shared and grown locally. There are lessons to be learnt on ways to create a framework for the community to recognize the value of its own knowledge and experience – brought back to life through the natural imagination and creativity of children. We also hope that our experience will help generate a discussion around how education, when communally owned and cultivated, has the potential to improve the lives of children and community members alike.

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