Posts Tagged ‘reading’

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.

 

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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.

Prerequisites to Success, by Caroline Burns, Back2Back Mexico Staff

October 28, 2011

I’m sure that you’ve heard a million times that reading is fundamental to learning. Imagine a 3rd or 5th grader trying to tackle his math word problems for homework but has no idea what the problem is because he can’t read so he waits for you to read it to him and help him set up the math. This scene is far too common place for me to stomach sometimes. But orphans in orphanages don’t always get the amount of individualized attention they need to succeed academically. This is a huge deal when you consider that the ticket out for these kids is their education.

When I was little, my mom took me to the public library every single week to pick out all my favorite books. I recently tried to find my original copies of all my favorite childhood stories and realized that we never actually owned most of them but rather we just checked them out of the library over and over again. My mom read to me before bed. As I got older, she required that me and my siblings read for one hour every summer afternoon – like it or not. She was onto something here…

Day after day here at the institution I work at, seeing the night and day difference between my academic upbringing and the snip its of time orphans receive for reading instruction – if at all – got me thinking. Add to the situation the fact that public libraries in Mexico are a foreign concept for the kids.

I am in charge of different dorms of kids on different days so I decided about a year ago to start incorporating reading into my day with the boys. It was easy with the little guys because they love sitting in your lap and hearing a story read out loud but I was nervous about the 9 to 12 year old bunch. They have surprised me because they actually love it. They laugh as they comprehend funny parts of the stories. They smile. They don’t hate reading like I thought they would. We read out loud for 20 minutes. These 20 minutes which can sometimes go on for an hour when certain boys want to take their 20 minutes of reading individually by reading out loud to me is honestly my favorite part of my entire day with this dorm.

Many of the books that we read on a weekly basis have been donated my several of you. Thank you for shopping online or in bookstores for children’s books in Spanish. Thank you for donating to these childrens’ future.

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.

The Joy of Reading, by Jim Betscher, Back2Back Mexico Staff

May 10, 2011

We recently completed remodeling the library at Casa Hogar Douglas. This children’s home for over seventy kids now has a very nice library made possible by a donation from The Rotary Club International and the tireless efforts of many of our ministry volunteers.

I recently read that 94% of the municipalities of Mexico don’t have a library. The reader index for Mexico is the lowest in Latin America. Back2Back is eager to help each child develop a love for reading and ultimately provide them with opportunities to improve academically. I am so excited that these kids will have an opportunity to benefit from the blessing this library will be!

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.

The Joy of Reading, by Kim Wittkugel, Back2Back Mission Trip Guest

January 6, 2011

Our family has been involved with Back2Back for many years.  In 2000, our oldest child went on a school mission trip with Back2Back.  We were all able to go as a family in 2008.  As I served at the various children’s homes, I noticed that the children had little or no access to books. Trained as a reading specialist and elementary teacher, I realize the importance of reading to kids and access to books in a child’s literacy development.  As a mom, I witnessed the joy of reading to my kids and the excitement in their eyes as we explored the world through books.  And as an avid reader myself, I cherish the time I can spend with a good book.

I was saddened that the children living in the homes could not have these same experiences.  In the months that followed after I returned from my trip, I kept remembering all the children who I had met in Mexico that did not have access to books.  God was continuing to nudge my heart to do something.  Not knowing how exactly to help, I devoted some time to prayer.

In the months that followed, God sparked a solution that began with my kids.  Ben, who was in eighth grade, gathered 600 used books to donate to Back2Back.  My daughter, Erica, who was a senior in high school, organized a “literacy packet” drive with the Spanish classes at her school.  She collected 110 personalized packets consisting of a children’s book, writing materials, and a personal letter to each child.  My Bible study also sent packets down.  The next summer, Erica was able to deliver the packets when she served again on a school trip.

As I shared the literacy issue with my parents, they felt compelled to get involved.  My father is a long time member and leader in his local Rotary International group, the Rotary Club of West Seneca, New York.   Each year, they adopt an international project to support with a donation of $2,000.  I was able to visit the group and give a presentation on the literacy needs of the children that Back2Back serves.  Not only did Rotary International agree to donate the full $2,000, but they also offered a matching district grant and a private donation, bringing the total to $6,000.

At the same time, Martha, the director of Del Norte Children’s Home, an orphanage that Back2Back serves, was building a library for the children there, but she needed money for books.  We had a match!  The money donated by West Seneca Rotary was enough to provide books for the library, allowing Martha to fulfill her dream of a library for the children at Del Norte.

This past March, Erica and I traveled to Mexico to paint a mural on the library wall.  It was exciting to see the room where the library was going to be.  Erica felt honored to contribute to the project by creating a mural.  Now, with the library open, I am so thankful that the children have a beautiful place to escape with a good book!

The Del Norte Library

Kim, spending time reading in the new library

Just this past week, I learned that the Rotary Club of West Seneca, NY has approved an additional $2,000 donation towards a library at another children’s home where Back2Back serves, Douglas Children’s Home.  Once again, a private donation was given with the possibility of a matching Rotary district grant.  The project continues!  More books allowing more children to discover the joy of reading!

While I was in Mexico, I saw the lack of literacy opportunities for the children, but I felt that there was not much that I could do.  The need seemed too great.  After I returned home, God continued to put the children on my mind and heart, and I knew that I had to listen.  Back2Back staff member, Beth Guckenberger, gave me some great advice, which I clung to: take one step at a time and wait for God to show you the next step.  And that is exactly what I did. I began by taking the first step with getting my children involved and then God has ordered the steps that led us to a Rotary partnership.  This partnership has provided the resources needed to begin to give the children in the homes an opportunity to improve their literacy and escape into a good book.

Del Norte Library, by Caroline Burns, Back2Back Mexico Staff

April 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help Erica and Kim paint a mural at the new Casa Hogar Del Norte Children’s Home library addition. They did a fantastic job! Here are a few pictures to show the day by day progress of that week:

If you have ever served with us in Monterrey and visited this children’s home, you’d remember it no doubt. It is the one that looks sort like it’s out of some imaginary world – one where the kids have trampolines, a HUGE auditorium, outdoor kitchen, homework rooms, a bakery, music rooms, a computer lab and now a huge second story library with outdoor patio. And to top it off, the woman who is the director of this home started the orphanage in her RETIREMENT. This home screams from every direction that God is actively blessing those children, He will hear them, come to them, lift them up, make them a home, give them food and clothing, execute true justice for them and all the other promises that God has made in scripture to the orphan child. And to top it off – those scriptures are actually physically written on the walls in case you missed the obvious.

Why a library? Martha, the director of the home, was in the states visiting a church in Texas last year and saw their children’s ministry area complete with a children’s library. You know what they usually look like – bean bags, colorful carpets, fun art on the walls, tons of books, a few computers, etc. She asked the Americans she was with if the kids liked this kind of library. Martha was a bit amazed at the idea that reading could be fun. You see, in Mexico, the average school aged child reads one book a year. In the states – the average is not much better but at least it’s at twelve books a year. The kids here very much so associate reading with punishment.

But Martha, a woman of VISION, got another vision for her children’s home and thus, the library addition began. We sat down with her and asked her on camera why she wanted a library for her children – she said something that I was not in the least expecting.  She said, “So the children will know who is God.”

Her reason for everything she does for the children was so that the kids would look around at the orphanage they live in and think, “This place is different. Why is this place so different?” And the answer would involve the reality of how much God passionately loves them and is caring for them. Pretty much NO ONE, no orphanage, no local civic center, nowhere has a children’s library and if they do – it won’t begin to compare to what Martha is building. And the reason is so that the kids might know who God is.

Listening to her testimony of the children on the streets that Martha would see everyday many years ago and how she made a decision to care for them which ultimately led to the children’s home Back2Back serves today, it was all I could do to not just cry. Martha is incredibly humble. I’ve never met anyone like her. But what really gave me the chills that day was that she is BELIEVING on faith that the new directors of that home, whoever they will be, and she needs new leadership because she is really old, WILL BE ABLE TO BETTER CARE FOR THE KIDS THAN SHE CAN. After hearing WHY she was building a library, I was shocked. But hearing that Martha honestly believes that God will provide new leadership to follow in her footsteps that will do far greater things than she has been able to – will forever be imprinted on my mind. If you’ve ever met Martha, maybe you can understand a bit of my surprise at hearing this. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone as AWESOME, strong, determined, full of faith, dedicated, gentle, sweet natured, kind, generous and passionate as Martha.

I want to believe the best is yet to come like Martha does. Don’t you?

Learning English, by Back2Back India

December 7, 2009

India has twenty-two official languages and thousands of dialects. Hindi and English are national languages. In Andra Pradesh, the state where Back2Back India operates, the most common language is Telugu. A child in India first learns their local language then studies that language plus Hindi when they get to school. By 5th grade when they start English, the children are learning three languages! Some schools called English Medium schools, teach in English from kindergarten onwards which gives the children a better exposure to this world language.

The children at Eternal Joy Home, one of the children’s homes served by Back2Back India speak Telugu. When we met them about a year ago, they knew only a few English phrases. Some of the children were given the opportunity to study at an English medium school this year. Although it has been difficult for them to jump into this new language, they are happy to be at that school. They have also received encouragement from American and British friends who came to visit, brought books and educational games and spent time interacting with the children.

Over time, we have seen an improvement in the English skills of the children. They are getting good marks (grades) at school and several received awards recently.

In this video, one of the young girls who spoke no English earlier this year, now sings “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.

We thank God for the opportunities He provides for these children. Please pray with us for their continued studies and the hope that Back2Back India can help break the cycle of poverty through education.