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Economic Prosperity Generated by Creating Social Capital

Women are being trained in artisan method in cheese processing (Library of San Carlos Sija, Guatemala)

Women are being trained in artisan method in cheese processing (Library of San Carlos Sija, Guatemala)

For the World Bank, social capital refers to the institutions, relationships and norms that shape the quality and quantity of social interactions of a society. Research shows that social cohesion is an essential factor for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable. The strategies to improve economic perspectives of communities mainly focus on improving education and health services, building competent and accountable political institutions, and facilitating free markets that are able to compete in the global economy. Social capital is related to each one of the aspects. For example, with education, schools are more effective when parents and the community members are involved in their programs and activities. With health, doctors and nurses meet their obligations more frequently in places where they are engaged beyond their profession and their work is supported and supervised by citizen groups. With the adoption of policies that do not account for preexisting forms of social capital, situations of inequality, insecurity and violation of human rights are generated. Additionally, access to markets and a path connecting to the formal economy, including access to materials and computing resources, is a crucial step on the way to economic progress in poor communities.

José Maria Hernández (1) identifies four areas that are necessary to promote social capital: 1) a climate of trust that favors the negotiation process and local investment; 2) the ability of organizations to cooperate in projects and collective initiatives; 3) civic consciousness that represents the responsibility of the individual to the society in which he lives and contributes to; and 4) the ethics and values that are essential assets in societies because in crisis moments, the principles are are what drive important decisions in terms of development, social justice and transparency.

Jóvenes fortalecen su liderazgo basado en valores éticos (Biblioteca de Guacamaya, en El Progreso, Honduras)

Young people strength their leadership based in Ethical Values (Nueva Vision Riecken Community Library in Guacamaya, El Progreso, Honduras)

Promoting Social Capital through Development: Riecken Community Libraries as Social Capital

Riecken Community Libraries are proving that libraries are essential for a democratic society. The libraries are institutions where citizens are encouraged to make informed decisions and achieve their full potential. They deliver knowledge, promote critical thinking and stimulate self-education and lifelong learning. In poor communities, libraries also fulfill the role of providing a sustainable framework, with the library’s operations run by volunteers in the community. Through community leadership, important principles of development and self-government are formed.

La Red de Bibliotecas Comunitarias Riecken es un foro democrático e incluyente

Riecken Community Libraries Network is a democratic and inclusive forum

Riecken’s libraries provide an example of democracy in action: the access is free for all, management is carried out at the local level, and the materials offered represent a wide range of ideas and viewpoints. Our library services are available to anyone who needs them. The community libraries promote a culture of transparency based on the transmission of values and strengthening of organizational skills. Youth also benefit from the libraries by gaining citizenship and leadership skills through local volunteerism. The local libraries stay connected to one another through the regional Library Association (in Honduras and Guatemala). The Association offers capacity for the libraries to develop proposals and advocate for regional solutions to conflicts that affect the libraries and communities.

Bibliotecas comunitarias coordinan procesos formativos con otras organizaciones locales (Biblioteca  de San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala)

Riecken Community Libraries coordinate training processes with other local organizations (Library of San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala)

The network of community libraries support the improvement of educational quality by reducing the achievement gap with programs, offering complementary resources at local education centers, improving access to information and supporting teacher training. In one specific initiative called “Read Takes You Away!”, the libraries help strengthen performance and utilization of Spanish classes through reading for pleasure in coordination with curriculums that support reading with children, parents and teachers. With technical assistance from USAID, more than 30,000 children and 1,200 schools are involved and are supported by the more than 80 volunteers from the Riecken’s libraries.

The community libraries also focus on the promotion of health through early childhood reading and nutrition education. This program involves pregnant women, parents and their children under six years old. In a fun and entertaining way, reading skills are combined with lessons on nutrition, such as cooking with fruits and vegetables, nutrition in general, and how to talk about nutrition with their young children.

Representatives of Boards, Community Library and Parent Association, negotiate with the local Government with the benefit of the community libraries.  (Library Las Pilas, San Antonio y Sulaco, Honduras)

Representatives of Boards, Community Library and Parent Association, negotiate with the local Government with the benefit of the community libraries. (Library Las Pilas, San Antonio y Sulaco, Honduras)

Technology in the libraries represents an opportunity for economic inclusion of excluded sectors. The community libraries organize new services to meet the needs of the population such as integrating business centers into the library model. Local business producers – for example, weavers and artisans – are able to gain access to technology to improve their sales activities and business promotion. To further their education and understanding on how technology can help them, seminars are offered on marketing and business applications. Small business owners learn from one another through shared experiences and stories.

Lastly, the community libraries built a climate of trust after the election process held in November 2013 in Honduras. The coordinator of municipal governments and the organization of Honduran Municipalities, chose Riecken’s library network as one of the civil parties to accompany the transition between outgoing and incoming local authorities. In this capacity, Riecken’s libraries contribute to strengthening municipal and local management, and providing efficient and transparent governance.

Local governments recognize the Riecken community libraries as important players in community development.  Listen to the words of the Mayor of Trinidad Copán (Honduras).

Local governments recognize the Riecken Community Libraries as important players in community development. 

Riecken Community Libraries are a social platform and an essential space for the social cohesion present in 65 communities in Honduras and Guatemala.

Listen to the words of the Mayor of Trinidad Copán (Honduras).

(1) Hernandez, Jose Maria. The importance of social participation for development. Social Capital and Development, in XII Sustainable Guayana forum: Meeting of social Organizations, March 27, 2012 (Consultation made on: October 22, 2014)

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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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Posted in Central America, Community Libraries, Creative Writing, Guatemala, Reading for Pleasure

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

Donate by Mail

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