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September 2020

Nelly Cantú – ¿jugamos a leer?

Nelly Cantú – ¿jugamos a leer? 1145 768 Lavinia Hirsu

My name is Nelly Cantú. I am a certified reading mediator with a degree in children’s rights from the University of Valencia in Spain and the Autonomous University of Madrid in Xochimilco. I am also a Peace Ambassador for the UNICEF. In 2011, I won a study abroad scholarship which took me to Valencia, Spain, where I carried out workshops on Mexican traditions with migrant children from different countries, such as El Salvador, Costa Rico, Colombia and Ecuador, that were based in the city.

In 2012, the initiative ¿jugamos a leer? came into being, and I started this reading adventure, this overwhelming and marvellous activity. I am always grateful to have the opportunity to share this work through workshops such as Cuéntame tu historia [Tell Me Your Story] based on the book Éste soy yo [This is Me] by Margarita Robleda and Esta familia que ves [This family that you see] by Alfonso Ochoa; La comunidad de mis sueños [The Community of My dreams] based on Where the wild things are” by Maurice Sendak and Érase otra vez un bosque [Once upon a time in the woods] de Elisa Gèhin and A que jugamos [What games do we play?] based on the book Lanzar, subir, bajar y tirar by Nina Shor, in which she documented traditional games.

In 2016, I faced a new challenge. I was doing a reading with children of the Haitian community who had arrived in the city of Tijuana. The only obstacle was the language barrier; this did not deter me. We played a game based on the lottery, yes, the Mexican lottery, so they could get used to the language while they were with their families in the dining halls of Father Chava [who ran the refugee center] waiting for their status in the country settled.

March 2017: The workshop “Read with migrant children, young people and communities’ given by Seleste Posadas on the part of the Secretary of Culture, a year later…

March 2018, capacity building with the specialist Evelyn Arizpe. The workshop was “Children’s Literature, Reading and Safe Spaces: A support toolkit”. This allowed me to appreciate the importance of being equipped with certain tools and to build the habits and capacities to share with other mediators in my daily work.

In November 2018, I was invited to take part in the “International Meeting of Mediators and Reading Promoters Working with Migrants”. It took place in the city of Chihuahua, Chihuahua. It was a true blessing to meet with all these mediators and specialists.

One of the projects of ¿jugamos a leer? is Bitácoras Migrantes [Migrant Logs]: Notes for stories on the road with read alouds of books such as Ruga: el mundo de las palabras olvidadas [Ruga: The World of Forgotten Words] de Aureliano García Haros and La Gran fábrica de palabras [The Great Word Factory] de Agnès de Lestrade. As an activity, we created a clothesline where we hung different words, so that we do not forget them. We used the book Silly Billy by Anthony Browne to work on emotional self-expression, especially of feelings those associated with fear and uncertainty. We created “worry dolls” with the children in order to develop creativity and resilience in Cipoteca de Espacio Migrante [one of the reading spaces].

The year 2019 saw the arrival of the Bibliomochilas [Book Backpacks] of the el Centro Integrador Migrante Carmen Serdán through the initiative of and coordination with the invaluable work carried out by Rosario Obregon Mi Primer Libro Perú. ¿jugamos a leer? collaborates willingly with REFORMA Children in Crisis and thanks to the support and donations to shelters in the city, Patrick Sullivan and Itza Vilaboy, San Diego Libros.

Omar Cristiam Santos- Rio de palabras

Omar Cristiam Santos- Rio de palabras 1024 768 Lavinia Hirsu

Hello! I am Omar Cristiam Santos, and I am a mediator in the sala de lectura (reading room) Rio de palabras (River of Words), based in the beautiful state of Oaxaca in Mexico.

I joined the National Reading Rooms Programme in 2012, the same year that I was awarded the National prize for the Promotion of Reading (Mexico Reads) in the category of “Promoting Reading and Writing in Public Primary Schools”. I have been carrying out reading activities since I was sixteen years old. In 2012, I was a presenter at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, and in 2009, I participated in the International Conference for the Promotion of Reading “Reading as a way of life” organised in the framework of the International Children’s and Youth Literature (FILIJ).

My proudest achievement as a reading mediator has been transforming the reading room into a community building space by designing it as a place for people to meet, cooperate and share, a place to stimulate reading and global dialogue based on an encounter among readers, words and books, as representation of reality. My mission is to use my experience to serve the community and to try and inspire people’s lives through reading.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced is to develop strategies that can appeal to the largest number of readers. I will share with you some of them:

  • “Words go to the street market” (an itinerant traditional street market): reading promotion activities in unconventional spaces, such as community markets
  • Activities in the Reading room, including such reading workshops, story hours, book lending, and help with homework
  • Reading days: Bringing books and carrying out reading activities in communities that do not have access to children’s literature; activities included showing different ways to tell a story, literary events (book chats) and arts based activities to accompany book readings
  • “A Good Start”: Training women to act as reading mediators and build reading communities starting from the home
  • “The reading room goes on a stroll”: Carrying out reading activities in different spaces
  • Literary café: a space for book talk, through which a philosophy for children can be developed with the intention of building critical thinking skills
  • Lending Support to Schools: The design, implementation and overview of reading projects in educational institutions.
  • Training young reading mediators: A comprehensive strategy to train children to act as reading mediators
  • “Inhabiting the web”: Non-conventional reading spaces

The current health situation has provided me the opportunity to connect people through books, because I believe that virtual platforms can contribute to the formation of reading communities and can help alleviate the effects of the pandemic to some extent. I have chosen Facebook because the community with which I carry out physical activities has few resources and cannot pay much to have access to the internet. As a result, my Facebook page alongside Whatsapp have provided the main channel for me to be present in this community. They are a space where I share read alouds, tell stories, recommend books and carry out activities to accompany the book reading. In addition, I have created and participated in online book chats, read alouds and training.

I have carried out online reading activities and accompanying activities with children from different parts of the country and the world. Social media has allowed me to expand the reading community in many directions, from Patagonia, different parts of South and Central America and reaching as far as Canada.

As a Reading mediator, I like to bring about literary encounters of the sort that André Gide was thinking of when he said: ‘Upon seeing certain books, one asks oneself, “Who can read them?” And upon seeing certain people, one asks oneself: “What can they read?” And in the end, there is the encounter between books and people.’ And it is here that the provocateur, the match-maker, the mediator plays a role.

For me, reading is an act of love. I love what I do, and this is what I would like to share.