about books being the gift that keeps on giving.
And although I always believed this and have recognized the multitude of ways in which books have transformed my own existence, it wasn’t until recently when I observed the girls interacting with our small but potently stocked library, that I could say with certainty that we have to give them more books and more time to be with these books…reading them, sharing them, drawing and painting about them or acting out the stories the love the most.
There have been many changes in our physical positioning and how the classes themselves are being managed. We have moved into a room on the internado side – where the girls live. It is a beautiful space and it feels more and more like it will be a more permanent home for eStudio473. In this move, I requested that we put the library in the classroom as well, so that the girls would have more regular access. At the same time that we moved from the old classroom into the new room, we expanded our teaching team to include three Art Students from the University of Guanajuato. They have taken over teaching some of the workshops. To learn more about them visit our volunteers page.
Their presence has helped me to open the library more often. This means that the girls that are not in an art class can come pick out a few books and read independently or with a friend, a couple days a week. This time has become something that the girls value as much as the art classes, and similarly they never want the time to end. Recently I had to actually turn off the lights to get them to got eat their dinner, about six girls were so entranced by what they were reading they insisted that they weren’t hungry!
So, naturally when I received the money from our Givology Art Show from this summer I immediately thought of the girls and their growing love of books. I felt that part of the money should go directly to the girls as their personal earnings, but cash is wasted quickly when placed in little hands…it would have been blown on candy, plastic toys and soda in a week. Or worse it could have become a problem at home on what the money needed to be spent on. So I decided that I would divide the money up to be spent on books for each girl to take home with them, a start to their own personal library. We made a list of everyone’s preferences and I went off to a book fair in Mexico City with an empty suitcase a friend to help me search and decide! Upon my return, I wrote dedications to each of the girls that explained why I had chosen this book for her. The girls asked me everyday for a week about the books…..they were sooooo excited. I told them that we had to wait until Thursday when their parents would be there for an important meeting because I wanted to talk to them about the books and celebrate the job well-done by the girls. On that thursday night during the meeting I tried to make it as clear as possible that these were not gifts, they were earnings. And that when they talked to their girls at home about the books I hoped that they would show them how proud they were for what the girls were able to accomplish. In the future I asked that we all refer to the books as a reminder of what is possible through creativity and dedication. With part of the money I also bought educational tools and books to be used in the classes or by volunteers. Two of the books were about developing a love for reading and encouraging the act of writing. I presented these ideas to the parents and offered to share the exercises with them and to run a literacy through activities workshop with whomever was interested. ALL of the parent’s signed up.
After this I went on to the basketball court to present the girls with their books. I explained that we would do this in a purposeful manner so has not to allow for any craziness where a book could be lost or damaged. I wanted each girl to receive her own books and then go find a quiet space to sit and read them and the dedication. This was also my effort to allow each of them to feel satisfied and connected to their own books instead of jealous of anyone else’s. I was worried about how this would go down to be honest. Sometimes the process of receiving anything new and different is difficult for the girls to handle.
They were AMAZING. It was a beautiful exchange. All of them were equally proud of and enchanted by their new books. I reminded them repeatedly to thank themselves because they had earned it. However, now away from that moment I want to say an ENORMOUS and SINCERE thank you from myself as well as all of the girls, to Maggie, Julia and Joyce and everyone else from Givology that worked so hard to afford us this opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment and foster a love of story.