Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation, Inc. Programs
The libraries each offer story hours for the youngest visitors. In indigenous communities story hours are given in both the local Mayan language and in Spanish. Often they are also given in public areas so as to make more people aware of the library's services. For youth there are book clubs. Multiple copies of books are secured and the young people read on their own time and come together at the libraries to discuss their reading. We also an early childhood development program in which parents, often illiterate themselves, are learning vowels, consonants, sounds, shapes, etc. along with their toddlers. Each library is equipped with a number of computers offering internet access. Such connectivity allows students to do research for their school work and adult users to do research including pricing and distribution channels.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Our greatest success is the ever increasing number of unique users who pass through the doors of our libraries each month. We see young girls reading at US grade level. We see youth engaged in music groups and debate clubs who might otherwise be on the street joining gangs. We see community elders eagerly telling their oral stories so that they can be recorded and published in bi-lingual format. Our greatest need at this time is to increase the programming offerings in all 64 libraries. Both books and computers need to be upgraded and libraries need additional technological training so that the librarians can pass their knowledge on to the library users. We would like to expand early childhood development throughout our network and also offer business training for potential entrepreneurs. While we recently received a grant to strengthen our existing network we are also in the process of developing a replicable and sustainable model that could be used through Central America. It is our hope that soon we will be able to grow our network and offer access to information to many more rural communities throughout Central America.