Posts Tagged ‘literacy’

Bringing the Joy of Reading to Children in Cancun, by Julie Mowery, Back2Back Cancun, Mexico Staff

May 24, 2012

This month we rolled out MERC…our Mobile Education Resource Center.  We are so excited to see the kids participating in this program and are slowly building our library of books through contributions and gifts. We would also like to add other resources to the program, including educational games, manipulatives and laptops. Laptops would allow us to use educational software as another teaching tool, and to teach the kids computer skills.

Jorge (9) from Casa Hogar San Jose practices reading aloud.

Years and years of taking Eliza and Nick to the library and checking out tons of books is paying off in really neat ways.  Lending libraries are very rare in Mexico, and we do not have any in this area. We’ve been collecting books for the past few months and I really didn’t know how the kids would respond, but they love it!

Beti (9) was so excited about the new books that she couldn’t
decide which she wanted to check out.

In addition to allowing them to check out 2-3 books at a time, we also have read-aloud times, both one-on-one and in a large group. In addition to helping the kids learn to read and learn to enjoy good stories, it’s also a great time for teams to interact with the kids on a more personal level.

A mission trip participant reads to Beti

Sandy (14) is reading Loco Amor (Crazy Love) by Fancis Chan.

We are very excited about adding more resources to the MERC to expand the program. If you are interested in helping build our library, please contact the Back2Back home office.

 

Confidence Booster, by Caroline Burns, Back2Back Monterrey, Mexico Staff

May 11, 2012
Within the past month, all four of the 4th graders that I work with at Casa Hogar Douglas (Douglas Children’s Home) have finished the first chapter book of their entire lives.  We’re so excited to promote literacy among the children we serve through tutoring and development of libraries on-site at the children’s homes. This is truly a key to them having the tools they need to break free from the cycle of poverty.  My excitement I think pales in comparison to how much this feat is boosting these boys’ confidence in their own academic abilities. I don’t think they had any idea that they were capable of reading such long books.
Boy #1 just learned to read this past September. He hadn’t been enrolled in school for the past 2 years. Not only can he now read, he can read (really slowly, while skateboarding) chapter books on a 3rd and 4th grade reading level. He genuinely likes to read. What started with Dr. Seuss, has now progressed into chapter books about pirates in space.
Boy #2 now gets more excited when I bring news of new books arriving from the states for him to read than when I buy new movies. He’s the strongest reader out of the 4 boys in his grade that live in his dorm. He’s come a long way from where he was last year in reading.
Boy #3 can barely read. I mean, he can read but it’s painful at times how slow he reads. In 15 minutes, he might read 3 pages. He still tries to cheat his way out of reading for the allotted time by just counting out loud to try and trick me that he’s really reading. But he has now read two of the Stink books and is unbelievably proud of himself.
Fourth grader #4 is a special, special child. He has some rather intense behavioral outbursts at times. He doesn’t usually do well in school and he has severe speech problems. On the days that I’m responsible for him, I’m lucky if I can get him to do half of his homework without throwing a fit. He’s multiple years behind in school but this blessed country keeps passing him to the next grade. This pass month though, I believe I’ve witnessed a miracle. He loves to read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books! When his required 15 minutes of reading is up, he keeps reading. He laughs hysterically as he reads and then runs to read the same joke on the page to another kid. We had a party just this past week when he finished the first book in the series by watching the movie that’s been made after the book. He was so excited to watch the movie that he even invited his older brothers to watch with us. He is currently reading the 2nd book in the series and when he finishes, I’ve promised to buy the 2nd movie.
I’m so proud of them and so thrilled for their futures. For whatever reason, each one of the stories being written in history for these boys involves the part where they grew up in an orphanage. The statistics are not pretty for how the stories of people who got their start in an orphanage usually end. I usually find myself praying against what seems like ridiculous odds when I remember them individually in my prayers. But what I’m physically seeing right now is an obvious answer to my prayers from over a year ago.

-The cost of the 30 or so books it took to start the boys reading: around $200 usd

-Video games to motivate them: free because I took my little brother’s stuff
-Months of constantly throwing books at the boys: 14 months
-Self-confidence gained after finishing the first chapter book of your life: PRICELESS
Seeing and hearing them read and laugh and love what they are reading is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed but it doesn’t compare to seeing and hearing them worship with all they’ve got. They yell it out whether it’s to a CD, a worship DVD or at church. And they’ve got some awesome air guitar moves.  Three years ago, I don’t think any of them knew a worship song. Better things are yet to come at Douglas my friends. Join me in praying that Angel, Guillermo, Cesareo and Gustavo grow up to be some mighty men one day.

Promoting Literacy, by Hope Maglich Garcia, Back2Back Mexico Staff

January 13, 2012

A few months ago, I was hanging out with a few girls in the Rio, an impoverished Mexican community that Back2Back serves. We serve these families, mostly single moms, because they are literally at the cusp of making the difficult decision of whether or not they will choose to place their child in one of the children’s homes.  Our goal is to help them to provide for their children’s basic needs, preventing them from reaching the point where they need to drop off their children at one of the homes.

 

At one point, my conversation with the girls turned to the topic of reading. I asked them if they ever get read to at home. They both said no.  I knew both the girls had several books in their home, because I had brought them out in a donation. I asked the girls where they books were and they said “on the shelf.” I praised them for this, because taking care of items in the Rio is not always a priority. We had a conversation when I first brought the books out about where to keep them and how to care for them. So I was pleased to see that they had done this. However, when I asked how many books the girls had read that week the answer was, zero. When I asked why, they reported that they weren’t allowed to take them down from the shelf because their grandmother knew I was going to come by and she didn’t want to take a chance that the books would be ruined before my next visit.

 

I sighed internally as I realized that this family didn’t understand the reason for the books. I remembered the library programs that I participated in as a child growing up in Oxford, Ohio. Almost every summer we would set reading goals and earn prizes for the books that we read… I wondered if Sara and Monse needed a little motivation like I did when I was little. I asked for a scrap of paper and scrawled out a one week reading chart for the girls. “Try to see if you can read one book a day or if your grandmother can read one book a day to you for the next week,” I said. For added motivation I let the girls borrow some of the children’s books I had with me in my car. “Next week when I come, show me what you have read and you can borrow some more books.” I then talked to their grandmother to make sure she understood that the books were for the girls to read, regardless of whether or not they got messed up.

 

The next week I drove up to Sara and Monse’s house and was greeted by the girls proudly standing outside holding up their reading charts. “We did it every day!” They shouted. Each girl got to pick a lollypop as a prize then we sat down to talk about the experience and to read a book out loud together. It was wonderful!

 

The next week even more kids showed up and the same thing happened the week after. I now have about six consistent students every week! I set up a very basic library system, where the kids can check out and return books. The best part is that the kids are reading or being read to and that there are books entering their homes. I’ve even noticed some of the teenage boys standing at a distance where they can hear the story I’m reading to the children yet still look cool! They were only given away when they too started laughing at the funny parts.

Children in the Rio are excited to be a part of Back2Back's new literacy program.

I have several Christian books and some children’s Bibles that I let the kids borrow. Sara told me one day that her grandmother loves the Children’s Bible best of all.She reads it everyday to her granddaughters. Yajiara borrowed a Max Lucado book one week that illustrated the story of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. She said that her mom started reading it and loved the story. Her mother read it over and over several times that week.

 

I’m excited to see where this literacy program goes! Two months later and the kids are still excited about reading.  I can already see that he kids are enjoying reading and that their parents are being influenced too. Compared to when we first started, the children are now very engaged in the stories I read aloud. They are making their own predictions and making connections to the text… two very important skills for readers to know. I also love to see them being responsible for the books they check out. We have only misplaced a few! They have read most of the books in my collection and I am in need of more!

The children select the books they want to borrow for the week.

Monse, Sarah and Alondra read together.

Yajaira reads to Daniel.

Please keep us in your prayers! Pray for the kids’ enthusiasm to continue to grow as they discover the joy of reading. Pray for the ones who struggle with reading to continue learning. Pray for parents to continue to be on my team with this. Pray for more children’s books in Spanish. Pray for me to have wisdom to know how to teach and encourage these kids.

Becoming President, by Gabo Velasco, Back2Back Mexico Staff

July 7, 2011

When ten-year old Adrian was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he responded with “the president of Mexico.”  Martha, the director of Del Norte Children’s Home who posed the question, was impressed but knew what this would require of Adrian: the ability to read.  Martha made it clear to Adrian, that if he was really interested in being the president, he would have to read a lot.  From that moment on, you could count on finding Adrian tucked away in a nook somewhere in the Del Norte library reading one of the many books the library has to offer him. In fact, even a year after this conversation,Adriancan still be found in the library preparing for his presidency.

Adrian, enjoys a book at the library

With each visitor that arrives at Del Norte, we are certain to give them a tour of the library, emphasizing the importance of reading, encouraging each guest to spend an hour or so of their visit reading with a child.  Through this initiative we have seen the children’s reading skills improve, even finding their interest in reading growing as they now enjoy reading on their own.  Other local groups, individuals from churches and universities in the city who visit Del Norte are joining in these efforts, coming alongside the children as they develop their reading skills.  As we strive to improve the reading skills of the children, we are hopeful this will plant a seed, assisting in developing them to become successful youth and eventually successful adults.

Root Issues, by Will Reed, Back2Back Nigeria Staff

June 3, 2011

I have been spending a lot more time in the Kisayhip Village, near our home in Nigeria. I’m slowly becoming more and more accepted in the community as I become a more regular visitor. The other day I walked in to find several children playing Red Rover and not one of them stopped to come over, they just continued to play and acknowledged my presence by smiling and waving. I enjoyed knowing that as I’ve become more familiar, they don’t feel the need to drop what they are doing to come greet me.

As I’ve spent more time in the village, I’ve begun to see more and more issues that I think need to be addressed…everything from marriages and childcare to medicine and personal hygiene. Each time I’m made aware of an issue I think, “If we could just help that, it will help everything.”

For example, of the approximate ten young men who come to bible study, five of them can’t read or write. I’m not talking about reading and writing in English, they can’t read or write at all, in any language. So, I start thinking…if they can’t read, they can’t study the bible on their own. If they can’t study the bible on their own and don’t go to church on Sunday because of work, when do they ever get any sort of teaching? If they don’t get any teaching, how do they apply it to their lives and take it back into their village? The cycle continues to spiral down.

What the Lord brought to my attention recently is that all of the issues the village is facing are “fruit” issues. They are what we see, taste and smell as we walk through the village. They need to be addressed, but addressing only the fruit is an endless task. If you don’t treat the root of a tree the fruit will always remain the same or simply be absent.

What is the root issue? How do we “treat” the roots?

Luke 13:6-9 is a parable Jesus tells in which the owner of a vineyard demands a tree to be cut down because it has not produced any fruit in 3 years. In verse 8 the vinedresser (man in charge of taking care of the tree) says, “…leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.”

I believe the root issue of the village, as with every community, is spiritual. The people need Jesus. They need to know who He is and what He did for them. They need to know what it means to be sons and daughters of God.

How do I figuratively dig around a village and fertilize it? All I know to do is pray and love. Please join me in praying for direction in this.

The Carrot Seed, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico Staff

March 29, 2011

The Carrot Seed

” A little boy planted a carrot seed… and the whole world said nothing would sprout.” – The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

For the majority of the children I work with in the Rio the whole world has said they won’t succeed, they won’t thrive, they won’t amount to anything,… they won’t sprout. That is sadly the story of two girls, Sarah and Monse. They come from rough situations and unsupportive environments where they have been told, they won’t “sprout.”

I went to the Rio about a week ago with my tutoring supplies in hand. I hadn’t ever tutored kids in Spanish before, but thought it couldn’t be that much different than the experiences I had tutoring in the States. The three of us girls sat down in the comedor and I pulled out a supply of books that I had with me. The girls looked through the stack and then we all decided on The Carrot Seed (La Semilla de Zanahoria). As an early childhood teacher, I am ashamed to say that I had never read this book before! We cracked open the book and began to read about the boy, the seed, and the disbelief of the world around him.

“His mom said, ‘I fear it won’t sprout.’

His dad said, ‘I fear it won’t sprout.’

His older brother said, ‘ I know it won’t sprout.’ ”

I asked the girls how the boy must have felt. They said he felt sad and discouraged. I asked them if they ever felt like that, or if anyone ever said those types of things to them. They both nodded and we kept reading.

“Every day the boy pulled up the weeds that were growing around the seed and sprayed the soil with water. But nothing sprouted… And nothing sprouted… The whole world said that nothing would sprout.”

“Have you ever felt like the whole world is saying you won’t grow and change and that you can’t do the things you want to when you grow up?” I asked. Again there were silent nods.

“But every day he continued to pull up the weeds and spray the soil with water. And then, one day,… a carrot sprouted…. Just as the boy knew it would.”

The girl’s faces were delighted as we got to the last page! “We knew it would sprout!” they said. “and the carrot is HUGE!”

The picture on this page is priceless. The boy in the story has a wheelbarrow and one huge carrot inside. Not only did the carrot sprout, it was much bigger and better than any normal carrot.

We closed the book and began to talk about how we are like carrot seeds. That sometimes people will say to us, “You won’t sprout… you will never be good at math, you will never amount to anything, you can’t be a doctor, you can never leave this place…” But what did the boy do? I asked.

“He kept working hard.” Was the answer. “He didn’t give up because he knew the carrot seed would sprout.”

“Hmm,” I said, “what do you think we can learn from this story?”

Sarita replied, “That if we work hard and don’t give up, one day the seed will sprout.”

“Good,” I replied. “But there is more than that.”  I went on to explain to the girls that God created them with a purpose. That He has a plan for their lives. That it wasn’t an accident that they were born onto this earth. “It may seem like the whole world is against you,” I said. ” Your mom, your dad, or your teacher may be against you, but God is always for you. He know the plans and the purpose and the future that He has for you. You are special. You are unique, you are dearly loved, and you will sprout.”

The truth is that God believes in these girls and supports them. He is pulling up the weeds in their lives and He is faithful to put water on the soil of their hearts. The whole world may say, “they won’t sprout.”  But God says otherwise….

“I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

And when God sprouts a seed….watch out! It is bigger and better than anything we can imagine!

Sarah and Monse drawing pictures of themselves planting a seed and then the seed sprouting.

Sarah and Monse with their finished stories.