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More education in early childhood can help communities out of poverty

The Riecken Community Libraries Network on the International Literacy Day

New reader at the Riecken Community Library “Public Library Riecken” of  “El Guante” (Honduras)

New reader at the Riecken Community Library “Public Library Riecken” of “El Guante” (Honduras)

According to the First Steps blog1, from Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents (father and mother) read aloud to their children from birth.  According to this blog, “reading fairytales not only helps children to improve their vocabulary, but to recognize figures through the illustrations, to develop their comprehension skills, and to stimulate their interest in stories books.  All this will affect their future lives, improving their analytical skills and theirs school performance”.

However, the educational and cultural reality of Latin America is characterized by a large number of people who declare that they cannot read or write; the most affected are in the northern triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras). Through various educational programs, Honduras and Guatemala have seen their illiteracy rates drop, but there are still many challenges to overcome. Riecken’s programs have been successfully addressing these challenges by involving civil society in the school and cultural education process, and promoting the spirit of discovery thought the joy of reading.

The Individuals, who possess the spirit of discovery, have the ability to try new things, start new projects and participate in the social life of their communities. Through reading, people can find solutions to problems and answers to their questions. Reading also encourages new ideas and creativity.  Therefore,  reading leads to discovery and the discovery leads to the prosperity.  The reading program of Riecken Community libraries creates and strengthens the habit and joy of reading in the rural communities where the libraries exist.  This program is designed to promote reading in children and adults by making reading fun and accessible. Librarians, volunteers, and parents are trained on how to read aloud and story time techniques. This training and the practice of reading aloud helps children develop a positive relationship with reading from an early age.  For teenagers and adults, Book Clubs have been formed to promote reading as a social activity and a source of enjoyment and camaraderie.

Readers Families in Community Library “Windows open to future”, Chiché (Guatemala)

Readers Families in Community Library “Windows open to future”, Chiché (Guatemala)

Riecken’s libraries are also seen as “Bebetecas” (Libraries for babies)

The Riecken Foundation believes that reading to children from an early age (0-5 years), stimulates the mind, develops language, and builds a base to ensure the success of reading in the future. The parents are childrens’ first teachers; so they need to be provided with tools and activities they can do with their families to promote reading at an early age and develop a reading habit that will continue throughout life.  Riecken’s programs are aimed develop language skills, vocabulary, pre-reading, as well as creating positive experiences with books. Parents also learn techniques and that they practice with their children.  Essentially, the community libraries promote six pre-reading skills that mother, father and baby can develop from birth:

  • Motivation to Books: sparking the interest in children to enjoy books, with the purpose of promoting an approach to them.
  • Vocabulary: in the first week of life, the baby can vocalize at the same time that mother does.
  • Becoming familiar with the writing: engage the children with reading, use exercises that show drawings, shapes, people, and animals, not only with figures but with written words.
  • Knowledge of sounds: help children acquire the ability to hear and play with sounds.
  • Narrative skills: librarians can relate stories and tales to children and help develop the skills in reading readiness.
  • Letter knowledge: the children begin to learn their first letters.
The librarian training is essential to promote programs for new readers in communities. Riecken Community Library “Windows open to future”, Chiché (Guatemala)

The librarian training is essential to promote programs for new readers in communities. Riecken Community Library “Windows open to future”, Chiché (Guatemala)

The Riecken Community Libraries successfully promote literacy and the reading and writing practices in rural communities. It is the ideal complement to the effort made by the formal education sector.  This integrated approach helps promote the practices of reading and writing in the life of the community. Building a literate ambience is an essential step before creating literate people. It’s also a way to help address the lack of reading skills and the environments that don’t promote literacy, which can sometimes be found in formal school settings. 2


[2] Openjuru, George. Adult literacy and its link to development In: DVV International, (consultation: September 9, 2014)

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Technology Beyond Click: Riecken libraries forming educational communities in Honduras

Director, School  José Cecilio del Valle of Cuyalí learning the use of Technological tools to improve learning in the classroom

Director, School José Cecilio del Valle of Cuyalí learning the use of Technological tools to improve learning in the classroom

Through the EFA Program (Education for All), Honduras has committed to achieving a minimum yield of 70 percent in the subjects of math and Spanish for 2015. According to the latest academic performance report, the average percentage yield in Spanish (reading) achieved significant progress in relation to EFA goal (65.6% in 2013), since the percentage of students in the satisfactory level has decreased in all grades compared to evaluations made in previous years.  While it is true that there is an improvement in educational performance, there are still challenges to overcome especially those related to writing. Riecken’s work in Honduras will help maintain the achieved goal in the Spanish standard performance, but it will also have a special focus on writing and how this type of learning can impact civil society.

Public education has important shortcomings; especially in rural areas. This is one of the many reasons why Riecken established libraries in these types of communities. The low academic achievement and high dropout rates are a direct result of lack of qualified teachers, which is most evident in the performance of students in the areas of math or Spanish.  The Secretary of Education of the Government of Honduras strives to reverse that reality. Riecken is also tackling the problem. Our network of community libraries offer  enormous support to local governments and educational authorities in terms of access to information, educational materials, teacher´s training sessions, and an open space where local organizations can meet.

Students of School José C. del Valle (Cuyalí)are implementing the techcnology in their homework using webquest.

Students of School José C. del Valle (Cuyalí)are implementing the techcnology in their homework using webquest.

One of the goals of Riecken’s community libraries is to democratize the access to information and reduce the digital gap in rural communities. This is done by offering free access to internet and technology, especially computers, and the different activities that libraries carry out to promote their use.  Since 2013, six community libraries of the Riecken network are driving the Beyond Click initiative, whose main objective is promoting the use of technology in the learning process of students, at the collective level (use in school activities in the classroom), and individual level (self-learning).

To this end, teachers are trained in educational tools. They plan how and when to use the resources (Spanish, mathematics, science, etc.). Emphasis on the use of technology was made in the organization of group activities (school projects or webquest), led by the teacher.  The initiative Beyond Click is a small step for the quality of education in Honduras,. This initiative seeks to improve learning and school performance of the students in the beneficiary communities, especially in math and Spanish, through the introduction of technology, including free access to the internet and educational resources.  So far, more than 90 public school teachers have been trained on using the technology in the best possible way to support their classes and keep track of the students´ progress.  During these initial months, teachers have leveled their initial computer knowledge; many of them lost their fear of using technology, office and educational programs.   Given the essential skills that teachers had in the area of computing, a training curriculum was structured around computing and the internet (web resources), emphasizing the use of social networks and application of digital educational resources. Social networks like YouTube and Facebook are being used as small virtual classrooms, through closed groups to weigh in on topics that the same teacher decides to discuss and rate, reinforcing the classes.

mathsTeachers are also using resources for the classroom and educational platforms such as Khan Academy, as well as a platform that allows creating a collective knowledge with students (webquest). For the evaluation of the student´s progress, the training focused on the computer system of the Secretary of Education: School Management System (SACE.

“We are already working with students of School José C. del Valle on computer! We are all very happy with the news.  Very willing parents have supported the purchase of equipment for the Internet.”

Prof. Roxana Mondragon, School José Cecilio del Valle, community of Cuyali, shares her happiness in the Facebook group created by teachers participating in the Project.

In the first half of 2014, more than 97,000 people accessed technology through 65 community libraries Riecken, of which 57,000 used the internet as a tool to access information.  The 6 communities in Honduras that are promoting the educational technology Project are:

Biblioteca Flor del Saber Francisco Morazan (Flor del Campo Tegucigalpa), Biblioteca Luz del Saber (Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Cortés), Biblioteca Diamante de Sabiduría (Jacaleapa, El Paraíso), Biblioteca comunitaria Fuente del Saber (Cuyalí, El Paraíso), Biblioteca Riecken de Tatumbla (Tatumbla, Francisco Morazán),   Biblioteca “Manatial del Saber” (San Juan Planes, Copán), and Biblioteca Popular Riecken (Yorito, Yoro).  With financial support from Foundation Strachan, South Peninsula Jewish Teen Foundation (JPTF), SG Foundation, Peterson Foundation and Adrian Ridner.


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Art of Writing at the Riecken Community Libraries

Librarians analyze the importance of writing in community development

Librarians analyze the importance of writing in community development

The Riecken Foundation believes that the single most effective way to promote the spirit of discovery is through the promotion and pleasure for reading and writing. Individuals who possess the spirit of discovery have the capacity of trying new things, starting new projects and participating in the social life of their communities. Reading leads to discovery and discovery leads to prosperity. Therefore, the daily effort of a community librarian cannot be understood without reading for pleasure. Through the librarian training program, the Foundation trains in techniques and methodologies to promote reading in children and adults through programming that makes reading fun and accessible.

One of the trainings took place July 18-22 in Guatemala. Within the framework of the National Meeting of Riecken Community Libraries, a workshop called “The Art of Writing” was an opportunity for librarians within the network to strengthen their skills in promoting reading for pleasure and creative writing. More than 30 representatives from Riecken’s libraries in Guatemala participated and learned about the importance of writing and the various strategies for writing a story. In addition, participants learned the basic tools of the trade for writing: space, time, narrator, genre, action, and the construction of scenes.

Volunteer community leaders agree on the benefits of creating the association of the network of community libraries in Guatemala.

Volunteer community leaders agree on the benefits of creating the association of the network of community libraries in Guatemala.

It is also worth mentioning that at this National Meeting a formal step was taken toward organizing the association of the Network of Riecken Community Libraries as an organization that represents, promotes, enhances, advocates, and defends the rights and common interests of the community libraries, as well as to strengthen the associative and individual sustainability of community libraries in Guatemala.

logoRiecken2The Riecken Foundation sponsors a network of 65 community libraries in Honduras and Guatemala. Riecken Community Libraries are organizations for the development of the community that break the traditional paradigm of the public library, since they are not only places of exploration, learning, discovery and fun, but also places that build democracy, develop leaders and promote social justice within their communities.

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A new community library in Central America

The founder, Allen Andersson, cuts the opening ribbon

The founder, Allen Andersson, cuts the opening ribbon

On February 24, 2014, more than 300 people from the community witnessed the opening of the new Community Library “World of Knowledge” in the town of Parramos, Chimaltenango, Guatemala. This is the 65th library in the network of Riecken Community Libraries in Central America. The library represents an opportunity for the residents of Parromos to build a spirit of discovery through access to information and technology. The library, equipped with quality books and new technology, will connect isolated communities to the world so they can become global citizens.

Board of Directors of volunteers of Community Library Riecken in Parramos

Board of Directors of volunteers of Community Library Riecken in Parramos

To ensure the quality of the library’s programming, the Riecken Foundation launched its community training plan to librarians and community volunteers. Two librarians received training on library administration, how to promote reading for pleasure, and how to access information, research and basic technology. The library’s board of directors, composed of eight volunteers, also received training on strengthening their identity, specifically their roles and responsibilities.  The board was also trained on the concepts of a modern library, promotion of social participation, and community volunteering. Eventually community volunteers will develop their negotiation skills with local government authorities and other actors for the benefit of community library.

Child programming of the library

Child programming of the library

The library has an average of 347 visits per month (children: 180, young people: 114, and adults: 53). Weekly training is provided in story times to children aged six to nine, working jointly with elementary school, and care for the elderly. The transparency corner and thematic exhibitions of books and resources are kept updated. Monthly free computer workshops and crafts, as well as cultural and education activities are provided in coordination with teachers. In short, it is intended to promote youth leadership development programming.

The largest investment for the construction and allocation of resources amounted to $50,000 thanks to the generous gift from the Kilkenny family. The municipality of Parramos, local community management, and the Riecken Foundation supplemented this donation.

Thanks Kilkenny family for sharing our mission of promoting prosperity and democracy in Central America through Riecken Community Libraries!

Plaque of appreciation to the Kilkenny family

Plaque of appreciation to the Kilkenny family

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Parramos, a new Riecken Community Library

The building

The construction of the library began on September the 30th with the delivery of the first round of materials, right after signing the agreement between the Municipality, the Community and Riecken.   Almost a month later the building is about 35% completed.  The community has been very active raising funds to cover the 20% of the construction cost, as agreed during the selection process and stated in the agreement, and it has been a big challenge for them.  Their fundraising efforts have been addressed to community teachers, parents, local businesses and a couple of international organizations.


During the first week of November we will provide the second payment so that they can make the second purchase that will include materials for windows, doors and electrical accessories.


From the middle of September to date we have organized three workshops to train the members or the community committee.  Topics include: Transparency and Riecken’s values, accounting systems, Modern Community Libraries, Roles and Responsibilities of the committee members, Process of selecting library Board Members and Librarians.

The process of selecting two librarians has started and we expect to have final candidates by the end of November.  The first week of December we will begin the training of the selected librarians.

Next steps


The construction and training process is going as planned so that the library will be ready for inauguration in late February 2014.  During November/December we will begin to deal with publishing houses and technology providers so that in January we will have the book’s collection and technology equipment ready to be delivered to the library building, which will be ready the second week of January, according to the construction schedule.

Donate by Mail

Riecken Community Libraries
c/o Riecken Foundation (A-712)
P.O. Box 669004
Miami Springs, FL 33266