On April 25th Biblioworks hosted their 4th annual Festival de Leer, a festival to promote education and literacy through Sucre and the surrounding barrios. Held in the Casa de la Cultura, the festival included organizations that included libraries, human rights defense groups, disability centers, and local cultural engagement projects. Over 100 children attended, some with their schools, others brought by their parents or older siblings.
The warm, sunny day was filled with balloons, laughter, and stories. Mimes entertained children with gestures about reading while many stalls were packed with children drawing, creating a poem, or reading a book. Children as young as four to teenagers crowded the courtyard, which was filled from the morning to the afternoon.
Education is not always considered important in Bolivia, particularly rural areas, and books are expensive. Families that value education and reading have difficulty finding affordable books.
Natividad Esquivel Ticona, 14, said she enjoyed learning about the fables of Bolivia and that she owns five books. Many of the other children attending said their family owned five or six books as well.
Génesis Medrano, 15, said that though she enjoyed reading and thought education was important, not many children read. “We need to learn more about books, education, and discrimination. Many children cannot study because their parents cannot pay,” she said.
Literacy and reading is a problem, Viccenta Santivañez agreed. As a government worker in the barrio libraries Santivañez spends much of her time showing children how reading can be interesting.
“I think participating in games and reading here, at the festival, helps the kids find interest in it later,” she noted. “I believe more options for books will help kids learn. Now many teenagers and children only play on the internet.” Santivañez had many books at her stall for children to read, from “Good Night Moon” to Laura Ingalls Wilder books to fables of Bolivia. Her only criticism is that she hopes next year the festival will be in a larger area. “We have outgrown our space,” she said. “It is a good problem.”
Volunteers Alice Molyneaux and Rory Donnelly, both from London, were excited to be a part of the festival through helping Biblioworks. “We are only volunteering for two days,” Molyneaux said, “but we really like it. It is rewarding to come as a volunteer, doing something important and seeing the kids’ energy.”
Donnelly said he was particularly impressed with the variety of activities and booths at the festival, such as the stall for braille and the booth on sexual health. “I can tell the kids are really excited to be here,” he said. “This is fun to be a part of.”
Molyneaux agreed. “We are traveling for six months, and this festival with Biblioworks is making us think about volunteering other places. It is a good chance to practice more Spanish, too.”
Teenage girls from private Catholic schools to little boys that sell food and magazines in the plaza all agreed that the festival was “very nice and fun,” and that they would come back next year.
Sylvia Tamares brought her daughter to the festival after hearing about it on the radio. “It is interesting,” she said, and thinks she will return with her children next year as well.
José-Hernando Copa, 7, came with his younger brother and older sister, none of whom can read yet. He said his favorite stall had drawing activities. He works regularly in the Sucre plaza selling food or magazines for his parents, and thought the festival was a nice pause from work. “I like the festival,” he said. “It is very nice.”
Biblioworks hosted the festival. Founded in 2005, Biblioworks focuses on building libraries and promoting literacy throughout rural Bolivia. For more information about Biblioworks and the work they do, click here.