Social Media Marketing Coordinator, Save the Children US
February 2, 2016
This past fall, just as children in the United States were settling into their back-to-school routines, I had the privilege of travelling to Andahuaylas, Peru to visit one of Save the Children’s education programs. Nestled into the Andes Mountains, the community I visited is just one of many in the country that have programs that are supported or led by Save the Children.
Literacy Boost is one of our signature programs that’s implemented worldwide to create a culture of reading both inside and outside the classroom. In mountainous and poorly urbanized Peru where the lifestyles of most people revolve around tending to livelihoods in fields and gardens, 1.9 million people cannot read or write. The 150 elementary children who I met all came from working-class families in a region with one of the highest illiteracy rates in the country.
To make matters more challenging, the native Quechua language remains the mother tongue that children are born and raised speaking in this region of Peru. But as time goes on, most Quechua speakers must learn Spanish in order to function in their own country. This means that the students that I met—most of whom are the first in their families to attend school— are learning lessons in Spanish that their illiterate, Quechua-speaking parents are unable to help them with. You can imagine the challenge in trying to conquer illiteracy despite the many cultural differences between generations!
Literacy Boost focuses on 3 core methods to achieve success:
- Measuring kids’ reading skills: children are given periodic, standardized tests to track their learning progress
- Training teachers to help children learn: we help teachers keep their children engaged and interested by fostering learning through games, songs and stories in literacy lessons
- Getting parents and communities involved in learning: by providing books, libraries and supplies, we inspire students to continue learning outside of the classroom
I spent the first few days of my trip observing Peru’s Literacy Boost program in action, including shadowing classrooms, attending teacher training, and even getting the privilege of being welcomed into one student’s home to check out his “reading corner”—a dedicated space in a quiet part of his family’s home where he can do his homework. By the end of the week, it was time for the main event: On September 10th, which is World Literacy Day, Save the Children, in partnership with Global Nomads Group and Students Rebuild, connected the Literacy Boost students in Peru with two high schools in United States for a virtual exchange. The live webcast, which you can view here, was conducted to expose children on both sides of the world to cultural norms and differences as well as facilitate a conversation about the importance of literacy.
At the culmination of the webcast, my Save the Children team members and I distributed hundreds of homemade bookmarks that supporters made as part of the Students Rebuild Literacy Challenge: for each bookmark made, our partners at Students Rebuild donated $1 to our Literacy Boost program to help youth around the world learn to read and write.
I feel so fortunate to have been able to travel and witness Save the Children’s impact on such a special group of young and impressionable children. Over 5 days, I observed first-generation students from a rural, impoverished village in the Andes become captivated in reading and spelling lessons. Watching them light up in the classroom and become fully engaged in their lessons, I witnessed not only the influence of Save the Children’s programs in the most remote of areas, but also the enthusiasm that education sparked in these children.