The Magic of Books

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Blog written by our reading program coordinators Nely Vasquez and Jessy Molina. Nely provides us with an overview of the program in the first part and Jessy recounts her experience working with our bilingual track students in the second part.

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Nely: It started with a small reading contest back in 2019 with 4th-6th graders. They all would look for books at the bilingual school library and because that was the first contest, they were reading like CRAZY. The second year, during the COVID 19 pandemic, we had 75 students from grades 7th-11th. One bilingual group, in the Camasca colegio, and the second group under StS's scholarship program, spanning 5 municipalities. Our virtual meetings had a lot of connectivity issues and we experienced difficulties with motivating students to attend the meetings. This year, we involved 80 students in 6th-8th grade from two different schools and

municipios. For our bilingual track we had in-person sessions every two weeks and it was a sort of book club. The second group was led by teachers at one of our Kolibri schools, we had summary videos sent in and also reading reports that were analyzed and evaluated.

Since the first year, they have all been a success - not as we were expecting but can still be called so because reading isn’t a hobby in our culture. To encourage students’ reading we have been changing the activities every year and rewarding their efforts with prizes. It’s worth mentioning we are not reading experts but equally have a love for reading and that is what continues to keep us afloat. I can proudly say that the process is slow but is being directed at a good future. Youth are reading and with what we have accomplished, I can see it successful with a bit more effort on our and the teachers' end along with students enthusiasm.                 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jessy: Once I read, that reading is never a waste of time and throughout 2021, I spent many weeks with my students in the reading program. Though reading appears to be a simple activity, it contributes to the expansion of our minds by providing us with a wealth of information and lessons, while also keeping them engaged. The reading program started in June and our goal was to read three books, which we accomplished! We read two in English (Gulliver's Travels and Peter Pan) and one in Spanish (Around the World in 80 Days). Because the students are bilingual, we wanted them to continue using their English, making this goal important to reach. During the program, we did fun activities to motivate students, we learned a lot of things that will have an impact on our way of thinking, and the students enjoyed and spent time with their classmates even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

activities
designing a cover for the book

Students doing fun activities (left) and designing book covers (right)

Entertaining tasks were planned for the program to engage students and motivate them to read more. In each meeting, students had already read a certain number of chapters from the book, so we could discuss them and talk about our perceptions of the characters and the events that were happening in the story. Bingo, treasure hunt, “wanted” posters, giving a different ending to the story, writing a story with the same characters, asking questions, musical chairs - were some of the activities that Nely and I employed to make students enjoy each meeting and talk about the story because we knew that some students think reading is something boring. However, playing games and doing activities out of the ordinary were the key for them to realize reading can be as much fun as playing a soccer match or playing video games. 

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Students drawing WANTED posters (above) and their designs (left)

While reading, we learned things that will influence our way of thinking. Depending on the book, we may find different lessons. For example, we should not judge people by their size and appearance, there is a time for everything, we have to believe we can do it if we want to succeed, and never give up, no matter how many times you fail, you have to try on and on. Besides, for our bilingual students, reading in English helped them to learn new words and use them in context. Also, students developed their critical thinking skills by applying what they knew from the characters in the story and creating a new story with their physical and psychological characteristics. They loved this activity because they were able to use their imagination and apply the knowledge and vocabulary they had already learned. Inferring was also a technique we used with the students to try and guess what was going to happen next in the story based on what we had already read. Moreover, when we finished reading a book, we saw a movie based on the book, so we could find the similarities and differences between the movie and the book.

Treasure hunt
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Out doing treasure hunts (left) ; watching movies after reading the book (right)

 Since 2020 things have not been the same because of the pandemic and students´ lives have changed. They had to adapt to a different learning method like virtual classes and learning at home. However, in 2021 we had the opportunity to meet face to face and students were more than happy to see their friends and share time with them. Also, they were excited about being outside the home because even though things have improved, they still cannot go wherever they want, so they felt relieved to come to school and see something different from their houses.

Reading provides many benefits which we want our students to get because today they are becoming readers, but tomorrow they will become leaders, great professionals. No matter what path they choose, they will always need a book by their side because books, unlike anything else in the world, can contain and preserve all types of knowledge, tales, thoughts, and feelings. As a result, the value of a book in helping us learn and understand things cannot be underestimated. That's why we want our students to understand that books cannot only entertain us, but also enlighten our minds because there is a right book for every child. Nely and I are satisfied and proud about finishing the program with success. We are looking forward to next year, to continue encouraging the students to read and we are sure it will be even better. And we hope students will enjoy reading in the future, doing it by themselves because they soon will understand that the world belongs to those who read.

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All our participants received diplomas (all pictures). Congratulations to our top readers!

1st place: Kelly (6th grade)

2nd place: Karol (8th grade)

3rd place TIE: Angel y Joel (7th grade)

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