Libraries and hurricane narratives

Libraries and hurricane narratives 950 760 Lavinia Hirsu

Libraries and hurricane narratives

By Eliana Pasarán

On May 30, 2022, Hurricane Agatha devastated Mazunte and many other small towns on the coast and in the Oaxacan highlands of Mexico. What began with an early ‘chipi chipi’ (light rain), at half past four in the afternoon became a torrent of water and wind that left many soaked to the bone, with rivers of water and mud that covered or swept away loved ones, houses , animals, trees and plants, dreams and convictions, favourite objects. We must not forget that more than two hundred people lost their lives in the entire area and that, at the time of writing this text at the end of June, many families are still in mourning, isolated, homeless, without electricity and other basic services and even food. Others were luckier, we suffered tough but not irredeemable losses, we got less wet, and here we are, continuing to recover, step by step, day by day.

The “Biblio Mazunte” (Mazunte Library) survived the hurricane without much damage other than a little water and leaves on the ground. It took great care to store and protect all its jewels, including the mango tree which, a little dishevelled and with a few missing branches, continues to generously provide us with shelter. It is an extraordinary luxury in post-hurricane times, when thousands of trees have been devastated and are without fruit, turned into shadows. For this reason, as soon as the thick layer of mud covering the small square that provides access to the Biblio was cleared, on June 18 we met like we do every Saturday with the girls and boys to continue our immense passion for sharing stories, and what could be better than the one about the hurricane?

To warm up our engines, we enjoyed the picturebooks such as ¡Llueve, llueve, llueve! (Rain, rain, rain) by Lee Haery y Jeong Byeongkyu; Willy el tímido (Willy the Wimp) by Antony Browne; the poem Gota de lluvia (Raindrop) by José Emilio Pacheco and, amidst so much water, we slipped in Del otro lado del árbol (On the Other Side of the Tree) por Mandana Sadat and La recta y el punto (The Dot and the Line) by Norton Juster. Then everyone narrated their own story, letting us know that, as it happens in books, everything that moves in the bowels of an extraordinary event can be seen from many angles and perspectives: “I went down to the kitchen as best I could in the middle of the storm because the roof of the room blew away, I was very worried about my mother who was coming behind me”; “I watched a movie with my friend; we had popcorn, books, dolls and we didn’t get wet at all, the bad thing was seeing that we no longer had trees the next day”; “I started to cry when my dad came back covered in mud without finding my kitten”; “I was very stirred by the sea, by how it moved and corrugated iron sheets, palms and wood flew everywhere”; “mmmm, it was bad for me, I wonder why the hurricane landed right here and not somewhere else…”. Then we re-lived the faces we had at that time, through a little theater called kamishibai, we did a moving meditation to get rid of our fear, and we finished with a gallery of drawings that collected our impressions of before and after the storm.

In this way, we shared, we reflected, we read, we played, we drew, we amused ourselves, we learned many ways to deal with a situation and we had a lot of fun, along with the parents! This is the magic offered by libraries with their stories and all their knowledge. They are unique spaces where, through words, readings, drawings and other activities we get to know ourselves and others, where we save and share our individual and collective memories, where we experience all kinds of emotions through incredible narratives and we relate to each other with kindness and respect. They also have the incredible power to help us get back on our feet in these difficult times, giving us a space for fun and entertainment.

To continue our service to the community with renewed energy, every afternoon in July we will have readings, puppet workshops, walks to learn English, games and movie screenings on weekdays, in addition to continuing our book loans to homes and Saturday mornings of books and games. After all, “the passions are like the winds: they are necessary to set all things in motion, even though they often cause hurricanes”, as the French writer Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle once pointed out.

Virtual Library

Virtual Library 1024 576 Lavinia Hirsu

By Elvia Murgueytio, Metropolitan Network of Libraries Quito, Ecuador

I have believed in phrases like “after the storm there is always calm”, or perhaps something more famous like “nothing is by chance, everything is always the product of chance”. From my personal experience, these sayings are related to all that has been experienced as a consequence of a global pandemic. Press headlines began to make visible the presence of a new deadly virus, which would decidedly change the lives of all the inhabitants of the planet.

Everyone’s daily life was disrupted, we were forced to change our face-to-face spaces for new and unknown virtual environments. The challenges were enormous and at first, everything was uncertain, but the latent hope that everything had to return to “normal” opened up the illusion of new alternatives, which soon became a light.

In my particular case, as a librarian of the Metropolitan Libraries Network, I found a way to reach the public in a very creative and dynamic way. From one moment to the next, the barriers and obstacles that the pandemic brought us were transformed into great opportunities, because from the virtual space we began to take the books to the homes of hundreds of families.

At first, we started with a romantic proposal of “Readings by phone” with users requesting a scheduled reading. It was magical to create this reading space, sweetly going back to a moment in history where love letters arrived in an envelope with a dedication, in a sublime special moment. This fantastic journey led us to the next moment, in which the calls became zoom meetings, scheduled for school groups to share selected readings in such a beautiful virtual space. The beneficiaries began to experience how a library could reach them without the need to travel long distances, it was our first strength.

Immediately a project was created to promote virtual reading with a special programme; a careful and loving selection of books -the best of children’s literature-; creating warm and welcoming virtual reading spaces; generating encounters of dialogue, creation, fun and above all, a great interest in reading.

The great welcome we received from various institutions in the city was our greatest strength. The spaces were cyclical, the programme managed to benefit almost seven thousand children and young people directly. I dare to compare it with a small reading factory, where a fantastic team of twelve librarians empowered by their mission managed to build more than three hundred and fifty monthly connections and, the most valuable thing, the youngsters came to read an average of eighteen books in just one school year.

The trips were incalculable, with monsters of all kinds and colours, rockets, dragons, rivers and mountains, flowers and valleys, happiness and sadness, houses, pencils, shapes, clouds and dreams. The reading meetings encompassed all sorts of things; the result can only be measured in the big smiles and the happy hearts of the shared faces.

Taking advantage of technology as my strength and incalculable gratitude to the woman who made this dream possible, I close this cycle of my life with the learning that a great sculpture can always be built from mud; it only requires love, commitment and dedication.

My heart lives with clarity. The virtual library will continue to break down borders, distances, oblivion, allowing a magical book to build bridges of encounter and passion. The program “Reading with migrants in the Middle of the World” opens new doors in my life; a book that travels, collects memories and welcomes them with love.

Experiences on the use of children’s and young adult literature and the picturebook in reading mediation

Experiences on the use of children’s and young adult literature and the picturebook in reading mediation 1875 2500 Lavinia Hirsu

By María José Carrillo, Metropolitan Libraries Network, Quito, Ecuador

My name is María José Carrillo, I work in the Metropolitan Network of Libraries of the Municipality of the Metropolitan District of Quito (RMB). Although my area of ​​work is administrative, I have been able to collaborate on some occasions in mediation events through the Network. I have had the opportunity to see how literature and books work magic on people; how they bring families together; how they make children and adults happy.

During this period of the pandemic, the RMB librarian colleagues have done a great job so that children and adolescents from different parts of the country can get closer to reading and discover new worlds through the books they read every week together with the librarians. The picturebook has been the tool they have used to get closer to readers.

I consider that reading mediation has become a space of fun, freedom and imagination; a safe place for the children who are part of our program and who for almost two years have lived through one of the hardest and most stressful moments of their lives due to the pandemic.

The trip of my lifetime

The trip of my lifetime 641 481 Lavinia Hirsu

The trip of my lifetime

Abigail Janeth Saez Quinlli. El Coca, Ecuadorian Amazon

I don’t know exactly when I started my wonderful journey through the books. At one point I was full of papers, file folders and more files in my administrative work at the Archaeological Museum and Cultural Center of Orellana (MACCO-EP). I remember that it was a normal day in my work, until I went down to one of the cultural services spaces of the museum: the public library. And there I had my first encounter with a picturebook: Here We Are. Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers. Without a doubt, that was the first time I read a complete book, I couldn’t believe it, because to be honest, I was one of those readers who only read the front and back covers.

From that day on, I became interested in reading more and more, I’d leave the office as if to take a breath, and read children’s books, young adult books and picturebooks from the library. Since that day I have not stopped reading them and I have learned to share these readings with my nephews at home. It was also of great help that as an institution we had won the 8th call from Iberbibliotecas and precisely in this year 2021 we are carrying it out it. Thanks to this I learned a very interesting methodology: “Picnic of words”.

Now, being a mediator, I ask myself when I became one. I discovered this word this year, but the truth is that I had been one for several years, because I am a volunteer in a church where we work with children from the neighborhood or other communities, from 3 to 6 years old. There I help them with fine and gross motor skills, recreation activities and reading induction; perhaps not with precise methodologies because I was unaware of them, but I think that in a certain way I did mediate when I read aloud the various books and stories.

Every day is a challenge for me, this world of books has its ups and downs of emotions, research and creativity. Now I have a physical space and also a group of children who, when I say, “Kids, there is reading this weekend!”, one by one they come to check out the books and that is when I say to myself “You are doing well!” and my heart is filled with emotion and amazement because I have seen in each look of my children that curiosity about books, and they see a book as part of them; a book is no longer as distant.

My challenge continues and I hope to plant in each participant that love of reading; that they see that books are not boring as we have been taught, but instead magical worlds with which we can see ourselves and dream.

Reading with migrants “in the middle of the world”: Reading without borders

Reading with migrants “in the middle of the world”: Reading without borders 501 709 Lavinia Hirsu

Reading with migrants “in the middle of the world”: Reading without borders

I began to imagine the journey of “Reading with migrants in the middle of the world” in 2020, the year in which the coronavirus pandemic forced us to be at home and to cancel any possible travel. However, in this context of social isolation and mobility restrictions, I was invited to create and deliver virtual reading workshops for Venezuelan and Ecuadorian girls and boys who were beneficiaries of a project among whose objectives were to generate spaces and dynamics of integration between the migrant population and the host population. I confess that at first, it was not easy to imagine how to get these boys and girls to integrate while each one was confined to their home, counting only on the remote images and sounds that could reach them through a mobile phone or a computer. At that moment of initial confusion, I could not conceive how to read or show them a book and develop reading mediation activities that encouraged dialogues, encounters, and discoveries at a distance. Lacking the securities provided by the provision of a physical space full of books and materials for manual work; the effects of the voice and the close presence of the mediator to motivate reading and conversation; and the spontaneous dynamics of integration that occur between people when they share a space or an experience, I felt lost.

Fortunately, the books gave me shelter. The first ones to welcome me were the writings of Michèle Petit, some of which I had read long ago from the comfort of an observer. However, in my new situation, her reflections on “What is the use of reading” (2008, p.41-74); “The habitable character of books” (p.51); and the possibilities that literature offers us to reanimate interiority, to put ourselves in the skin of the other or to expand our selves through the celebration of the imaginary (p.123), gave me the first impulse to carry out those virtual workshops where I tested my confidence in books and literature to “bring together what is separate” (p.112). Following Petit’s advice, I decided to practice the “art of welcoming and availability” (p.164) and to turn those virtual rooms into “reading shelters”. I only needed the knowledge of how to do it. It was then that I got to know the book Para leer en contextos adversos y otros espacios emergentes (Reading in adverse contexts and other emergent spaces) (Secretaría de cultura de México, 2018), where I not only found ideas that strengthened my confidence in working with migrants and the host population in “emergent spaces”  such as virtual space, but I also discovered that this book made available to mediators, promoters and artists the systematization of experiences with methodologies of “cultural care” (p.9) implemented both in scenarios of human mobility and natural or social tragedies, such as in educational settings, to strengthen the skills of teachers.

Among the various experiences and methodologies shared there, the research and projects carried out by Evelyn Arizpe revealed to me the potential of the picturebook to generate cultural exchanges and promote the creation of meaning. In particular, the “Reading with migrants” project gave me the methodology to turn books and reading into symbolic shelters where girls and boys would feel welcomed, safe and encouraged to build bridges between them in the shared reading of picturebooks and other children’s books, accompanied by reading mediation activities. The activities were illuminated by the mediation model applied by Arizpe based on the metaphor “mirrors, windows and doors”, as explained by Rudine Sims Bishop (1990).  Sims Bishop shows us that as a mirror, literature offers the possibility to readers to see themselves reflected in the characters; as a window, it means seeing the lives of others and getting to know other possible ways of inhabiting the world; and as a door, it means confronting reality to cross thresholds, to take a step forward or to close and leave old cycles behind.

The virtual reading workshop sessions with the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian girls and boys lasted for six months. When we finished, I had the desire to share the experience with other mediators. Above all, I sensed the need to replicate in Ecuador, in some way, the training program “Reading with migrants” led in Mexico by Evelyn Arizpe, since in its recent history, Ecuador has registered significant migratory waves and internal population movements. According to IOM reports, in 2019, it was listed as “the main recipient of refugees of Latin America” (IOM Ecuador, 2019). The opportunity came with a call to present cultural or training projects for the “Línea de Fomento de Cultura y Derechos Humanos 2020” (Pathway for the Promotion of Culture and Human Rights 2020) of the Instituto de Fomento a la Creatividad y la Innovación (Institute of Creativity and Innovation). Inspired by both the methodology and the philosophy of the “Reading with migrants” program, Natali Lalangui and I applied to carry out a training program “Reading with migrants in the middle of the world”, and we were successful. The project’s objective was to train librarians, teachers, reading mediators and promoters of rights from the Metropolitan District of Quito and other provinces of the country in methodologies and tools to create intercultural reading itineraries with communities in contexts of migration or human mobility. The training program was carried out virtually and brought together a group of mediators and professionals based on their knowledge, origins and type of population they had interacted with. Among the 18 participants, there were mediators of both Ecuadorian and Venezuelan, Peruvian and Colombian, residing in different parts of Ecuador. In addition, we had two reading mediators from Brazil, for whom geographic distance and linguistic differences did not constitute any barrier. In this way, from the very formation of the group, we began to live the experience of “reading with migrants.”

The training program had a practical approach, because for the mediators to generate hospital “reading shelters” in their environments, we had to forge an experiential process that not only sensitized them to the phenomenon of migration but also led them to experience shared tools and methodologies in their bodies, minds and hearts. We then proposed that the training program would be a reading shelter for the mediators in the first place where they would feel a warm accompaniment. At the same time, we discovered the books, a meeting space with moments of reflection on the relationship that each one had with reading, and an opportunity to unlearn and rework concepts such as what to read, how we read the world, and how to read with others or for others. In short, we wanted to provide a training journey where the mediators experience reading and the creation of reading itineraries as something “free, poetic, free, and of playful exchange” (Petit, in La Nación, July 9, 2012), so that they would be able to transmit all that later in their reading shelters.

Guided by this purpose, we designed, directed and travelled together with the participants, ten virtual sessions under the workshop’s methodology. We started by “Imagining the trip”, getting closer to the reality of migration and its effects; “We prepare suitcases” exploring the tools that reading mediation offers us; “We start the journey” by reading the world from contexts of crisis and migration and discovering the potential of children’s and young people’s literature and the picturebook for these spaces. Finally, “We explore routes” with the pleasant participation of Evelyn Arizpe, who generously explained to us the model of reading mediation: mirrors, windows, doors; and so we learned how to develop a reading itinerary that would encourage encounters between the host population and the migrant population, encounters that would alleviate a little the burden of grief that migrants must develop. With all this, we began to “draw maps” under the compass of the resources of reading mediation to create activities that would allow the exchange of experiences and emotions respectfully and sensitively. Once the paths were established, we encouraged the participants to “Open suitcases” to think about the “Creation of reading shelters”; for this, we asked them to design their own reading itineraries and put them to the test with the group. Thus, during the practical sessions of the training program, we were able to experiment and provide feedback on each of the itineraries designed by the participants. These itineraries are already being put into practice in their work areas.

This whole journey that Nataly and I dreamed of was inspired by the stages of a migrant’s journey. We set it graphically through a visual analogy between human migration and bird migration. For this reason, each session was named after one of these stages and was accompanied by one of the migratory birds that made up the project’s graphic line. At the end of the training stage, we bid farewell to our travelling participants so they could “Open the doors of their reading shelters” equipped not only with a virtual mediator’s briefcase (digital texts and collaborative whiteboards on the Padlet platform with written, sound, cartographic and visuals resources), but also with a physical collection of books for both mediators and readers, with a selection of texts in Spanish on migration, children’s and young people’s books and picutrebooks.

According to the participants’ testimonies, this training process was a journey in which they filled their suitcases with valuable tools that they are eager to share in different contexts, given that they lend themselves to it. We are especially happy to know that for one of our mediators, participating in the program meant being able to bring to aclose, in her own words, “that circle, that void of longing” for her country. Also, as they expressed it, it was the opportunity to encounter different views of the reading mediation profession and to feel that during the journey, all of them became teachers sharing their knowledge andto recognise how, for the mediators, the exercise of cultural transmission through reading is transformative and becomes a window to see the world with renewed eyes; a mirror to see themselves reflected in shared reading experiences; and a door to meet the other in more hospitable, more welcoming, more humane spaces.

We are delighted to know that intercultural reading itineraries are already being put into practice in different parts of Ecuador and that even colleagues from Brazil have been encouraged to replicate this virtual training experience inspired by shared methodologies. At this stage of the journey, when all the reading shelters are wide open, we dream of giving continuity to the process by accompanying and monitoring the trained mediators. We also dream of having reading sessions of “Reading with migrants in the middle of the world” led by them; of creating a travelling library; of the replication of the program with new participants and its extension, through workshops, to teachers from all over the country. We will continue to seek support so that these dreams are fulfilled, and together, we will continue to chart the routes for reading without borders.

Mildred Nájera Nájera

Reading Cicada by Shaun Tan: A reflective experience after the Social Outbreak in Chile in October 2019

Reading Cicada by Shaun Tan: A reflective experience after the Social Outbreak in Chile in October 2019 1080 1066 Lavinia Hirsu

When the “Estallido” (social outbreak) occurred on October 18, 2019 in Chile, the school where I work, a public school and with a high number of vulnerable students, went on a reflective strike called by High School students. As a teacher of a 4th grade, with students between 9 and 12 years old, I used the opportunity to create a space for reflection.

Thus, we read the book Cicada by Shaun Tan, together. I selected this book because it addresses concepts such as inequality and also feeling “invisible” before a powerful other. Cicada works day and night, in very poor conditions, barely surviving, and with the knowledge that others are aware of its neglect but decide to ignore it. These are feelings that were flourishing in Chile and that were reflected in the Estallido. We are an unequal country in which, for too long, some have lived with wealth and privilege, while others, like my students and their families, are trapped in a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunities, perpetuated due only to where they were born. For this reason, I believed that this book could provoke a reflection on what they were already living in their homes and that they were observing on the news and, thus, could lead to talking as a class about what they were feeling.

To create the environment for reading, I did what I usually do: I read the book aloud to them, and I walked around the room showing its pages. While I was reading, I changed the voices according to the character, I made pauses at moments that I thought required a little more time to analyze, both in the written and visual aspects, and I was also guiding them to look at elements that, perhaps, they did not see. Given that we had already read together several times before, there were times when the students themselves told me: “teacher, there you can see that the body of the Cicada is changing color”, for example, showing that they had also noticed the visual elements that the text offered. This experience was very powerful, because throughout the year I had already carried out activities of Reading Animation (Read Aloud) and they handled certain concepts such as “text”, “illustration” and “double coding”, but in an applied manner. They understood that the picture books that I read to them had to be decoded both in their written and visual code in order to understand them.

After reading the text, we made space for further reflection. One thing I repeat to my students is that we want to hear their opinion. All reflections are valid, as long as they are supported by what they read and / or their personal experiences. For that, I recommend the book “Disrupting Thinking: Why how we read matters” (Beers, K. & Probst, R., 2017), whose authors address the importance of relating what readers read to their lives and also reflect on a moment of the story that they liked or that attracted their attention and why. From the proposals of these authors, I created a worksheet that we completed with my students after reading, so that they could organize their ideas.

The reading produced many emotions in them. Some of the words they mentioned were “injustice” due to the situation to which the Cicada was exposed. They also said they had felt anger and grief as they read the book. One of them related it to the work experience of his father, who often spoke at home about how badly he was treated at work. Another student, related it to how his family lived, all 6 of them in one room, like the Cicada, who lived between the walls of the office.

When making the connection with what was currently happening in Chile, their response was varied. Some said that the Cicadas in Chile had also gotten tired. Others connected the end of the story, which is very hopeful, with the fact that in Chile, we could also have a calm ending of the Estallido.

When we finished reading, we did an activity in which they came to the front of the class to write down on a craft paper how they dreamed their country should be like; what they expected from Chile. You can see from the pictures that they have a lot to say and to contribute about their country and how to improve it.

Throughout my years of teaching, I have always sought to create these spaces for reflection based on diverse readings and I can confidently say that they are invaluable opportunities to appreciate books and, at the same time, delve into ourselves. Books are a portal to learn more about the world, but specially, about yourself.

I hope my mediation experience will be of use to more mediators in other parts of the world.

Trinidad Arellano Moya

Spanish Elementary School Teacher, Santiago, Chile @profetrini


Bibliographic reference:

Beers, K. & Probst, R. (2017). Disrupting Thinking: Why how we read matters. Scholastic.



My name is Selene Loayza, reading mediator for the Organization for Ibero-American States (OEI) for the “Tambo de Lectura” Galapagos reading project. I live in a place of enchanted nature, where there are not only unique animals, but also a diversity of people from different cultures from Ecuador and around the world.

In 2015 I began working in the world of reading mediation. I had the opportunity to coordinate and execute a literary creation project based on the narrative adaptation of Galapagos legends for children. With these stories I wanted to reach all the children of Galapagos, that was my first conscious approach to reading mediation, given I was able to travel through the different populated islands and reach rural parts where they did not have access to books. Thus, through reading aloud and art, I was able to sow the seed of curiosity for reading in remote areas.

At the end of 2020, life took me back into the wonderful world of reading and books. The Ecuador headquarters of the Organization of Ibero-American States invited me to be part of the group of mediators of the “Tambo de Lectura” project of the “José de la Cuadra National Book and Reading Plan”. This experience has totally committed me to the transformative power of reading. As I already mentioned, the cultural diversity in Galapagos is immense because these islands are practically made up of migrants. This has made my reading mediation activities diverse and culturally rich as well.

From the start of the global pandemic, many collectives were formed. As a reading mediator, I approached these different groups to reach the communities through reading. That is why I created ´Libro andante´, which is part of the Galápagos Reading Tambo and which aims to reach all vulnerable cultural groups in urban and rural areas through books, reading, writing and art.

One difficulty that I encountered in my reading mediation process is that in Galapagos we do not have easy access to children’s books therefore, in 2021, with the children who were participating in the Tambo, we produced two copies of the Children’s Magazine ´Explorando´, where after reading their natural environment the children created visual and written content for this mini project, allowing a wider children´s audience to read these magazines.

Currently, I have the honor of participating in the Workshop ´Reading with migrants in the middle of the world´, conducted by Mildred Nájera and Natalia Lalangui. This workshop was a revelation for me. It allowed me to understand in a sensitive way the potential of picturebooks and illustrated books to mediate reading with vulnerable population of migrants, since these books can help us immensely to enter their worlds and also give them the opportunity to make reading a refuge given that for this population, books can be “mirrors, windows or doors” to different worlds (Bishop 1990). It is necessary to acknowledge a social reality that exists in Galapagos, which includes the discrimination suffered by certain groups due to their cultural condition, and the indigenous population that resides in the archipelago is one of them. For this reason, this training program has given me very important resources to work in the Galapagueña community from different perspectives, once again reinforcing my belief in the transforming power of reading in a society.

I will continue with this beautiful work of reading mediation, embracing and valuing human diversity, just as we do with the natural diversity of this magical place.

While they wait (Mientras esperan)

While they wait (Mientras esperan) 898 342 Lavinia Hirsu

Significant experiences and early childhood in the pandemic confinement

By Nadia Altamirano

A message from Whatsapp appears on my phone. A “click” reveals an image of Ana who is sitting down, I see her from her waist upwards. Her arms surround the body of Anita, her daughter, who is one year and five months old.

From her side, Ana only sees the black screen while Anita fidgets. Suddenly, the sound of an ocarina is heard and it draws the attention of the little gir, who in seconds becomes still and then looks for the origin of a sound she has never heard before.

This is how one of these different online reading sessions begins, aimed at early childhood as part of a project called “While they wait” (Mientras esperan). The sessions provide stimulation through poetry to create meaningful experiences for audiences from 0 to 3 years old.

The sound of the ocarina is an invitation to enter the poem about a mischievous wind. On the screen that mother and daughter observe, darkness gives way to reveal the yellow colour of a sheet of paper that little by little becomes distant because of that mischievous wind. Slowly my face appears, emerging from the plants that serve as background.

When a pandemic state was announced, along with an immediate request to stay at home, in Mexico —the country where I was born and currently live in—, a wave of online activities aimed at all audiences created an overflow in social media networks. Groups, institutions, civil and private associations, cultural centres, organisations and artists hurried to shelter us —as Ana does with Anita—, in our own confinement, perhaps so as not to feel the slowness of time that waiting brings.

A variety of instructions were the highlights of each of the prerecorded or live videos that were broadcast along with the use of “essential” materials to fulfill the aim of the activity. At the same time, music, oral narratives, read alouds, and other scenic proposals were rapidly disseminated. It was logical that artistic and cultural products in video format should be a product of passive consumption in such a situation. No utopian future had made us think about such a situation; therefore no one was prepared. The premise was to bring a little comfort, encouragement, distraction and entertainment to what was happening.

The poem continues resonating with my voice and Anita looks carefully at her mother, who is watching the screen. “Ana, look at your daughter,” I indicate. At the moment when Ana’s eyes fall on Anita’s, they both return their gazes to the screen. It is an action as subtle as if the mother had extended her hand to her daughter to lead her to where she is.

During this time, families who have access to watch these videos, have adapted and tried to copy the activities to maintain contact with culture and art. The audience under three years of age, have also continued to discover their environment but now there is a difference: the absence of interaction with their peers, the absence of the outdoor environment and of cultural and artistic incentives.

Covering that absence means waiting. And waiting, at this stage was, and is, like a rivulet about to be evaporated by the sun. It is a transformation, a growth in the absence of experiences.

“The wind plays”, I say, while I blow into this two-dimensional world created by the screen. I signal to Ana her participation as a way to turn that breath into something three-dimensional so she blows on Anita’s hair, who moves her knee while smiling.

All of the above has been the motivation to reflect on how to bring to a young audience an alternative experience within their screen lives in which they can be more active. An experience where the adult next to them accompanies them in play, interaction and dialogue, relinquishing control. Where screen time can be paused so that the girl, boy or baby, together with their companions can connect with their gaze, among many other things.

This was the reason why “While they wait” (Mientras esperan) was created in April 2020, to help with activities that generate significant experiences. The poetic word, the read alouds and the scenic oral narratives are the base, while the video calls or telephone calls become the vehicles of connection with girls and boys who wait for everything to get back on track.

The wind brings to the screen an illustration of a story. I read. I make sounds. Ana holds her daughter who is standing on her lap.

The sessions are tailored and of short duration to make sure the objective is met. Only one session a week is held per participant, leading to a list where other families await their turn. The process consists of contacting the adults before the session and informing them of the importance of their participation and interaction in these sessions because it is the accompaniment, the body contact and the play between them that will make my presence more than a voice screen projecting images.

In addition, I offer suggestions and recommendations for before, during and after the session, for example in case of unforeseen events such as internet or electricity failure, and suggestions are offered to ensure the child’s experience is not truncated and closes in the best way possible.

A playground song becomes a hand that moves to say “see you soon”. The image on the screen fades into darkness. I listen to Ana singing the chorus of the song while she gives Anita a big hug. The volume of my voice drops. One more click and the session is closed.

“While they wait” (Mientras esperan) is a project that joins the many proposals seeking to maintain commitment and quality for this important audience of young children. The above session is a sample: one-year-old Anita represents the laughter of the girls and boys under the age of three that I have to read to.

September, 2020.

Tepoztlán, Morelos. México

Note: All names have been changed and participants approved the publication of the photographs for this text.

الاستماع والقراءة في أوقات الجائحة أمر رائع

الاستماع والقراءة في أوقات الجائحة أمر رائع 720 1280 Lavinia Hirsu

لقد بدأت سنة جديدة، وبينما لا يزال الوباء يلقي بظلاله على العديد من الأنشطة التي يمكننا القيام بها، يواصل وسطاءنا إيجاد حلول خلاقة للبقاء على اتصال بالأطفال وأسرهم، ولزرع الأمل في قلوبهم، وخلق أماكن آمنة للقراءة والعيش والحلم. هنا قصة عظيمة تلقيناها من أحد الوسطاء في السلفادور:

“خلال أصعب أشهر الجائحة والحجر الصحي، سعت “لا بيليوتيكا دي لوس سوينوس دي سانتو دومينغو دي غوزمان” في السلفادور إلى إيجاد طرق مبتكرة لمواصلة تشجيع القراءة بين أطفال البلدة. تم تركيب مكبر صوت في الجزء العلوي من شجرة المانجو. كل يوم في الصباح كان الأطفال يستمعون إلى قصص المانجو التي أبقتهم سعداء ويقظين ومتعلمين وممتعين. مع هطول الأمطار الشتوية المستمرة ووصول العاصفة أماندا، توقف المتحدثون عن العمل. لحسن الحظ، الكاهن القرية الذي استمع أيضا إلى برنامجنا، ‘لير es Maravilloso’، والذي كان قد وضع أيضا المتحدثين الخاصة به في برج جرس الكنيسة لإعطاء الجماهير، أدرك مشكلتنا وقرر أن يدعمنا.

خرجت القصص الآن من أجراس والأطفال كانوا سعداء، وظلوا يتعلمون، وكانوا مستمتعين … وفي نهاية الحجر الصحي، أراد الأطفال مواصلة الاستماع إلى القصص التي تحلق في ريح البلدة. لم يرغبوا في التوقف عن الاستماع إلى القصص. حدث شيء رائع: الأطفال، بالإضافة إلى الاستماع، أرادوا القراءة. بدأوا في استعارة كتب من Biblioteca دي لوس Sueños (مكتبة الأحلام).

وبما أن الوباء لم ينته بعد، يصل الأطفال بأقنعةهم ويبتعدون عن بعد ويستخدمون جلاً معقماً. يُقرض الأطفال الكتب، ويأخذونها إلى المنزل، ويقرأونها، وعندما يعيدونها، يجلبون معهم صفحة من التعليقات حول الكتب، ويوضحون برسوماتهم الخاصة ما قرأوه. الأطفال يزرعون عادة رائعة من القراءة. من الجميل مساعدتهم على زراعة أحلامهم …

إذا كان لديك قصة للمشاركة ، لا تتردد في إرسالها إلينا ، وسوف نكون سعداء لنشرها على بلوق. خلال هذه الأوقات، نحن جميعا بحاجة إلى قصص الأمل والإبداع!

Listening and reading in times of pandemic is wonderful

Listening and reading in times of pandemic is wonderful 360 640 Lavinia Hirsu

A New Year has begun and, while the pandemic is still casting a shadow on many of the activities that we are able to do, our mediators continue to find creative solutions to stay in touch with children and their families, to seed hope in their hearts and to create safe spaces for reading, living and dreaming. Here is a great story we received from one of the mediators in El Salvador:

“During the most difficult months of the pandemic and quarantine, La Biblioteca de los Sueños de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, in El Salvador, sought creative ways to continue promoting reading among the town’s children. A speaker was installed at the top of a mango tree. Every day in the morning the children listened to mango stories that kept them happy, attentive, learning and entertained. With the constant winter rains and the arrival of Storm Amanda, the speakers stopped working. Fortunately, the village priest who also listened to our programme, ‘Leer es Maravilloso’, and who had also put his own speakers in the church bell tower to give Masses, realized our problem and decided to support us.

The stories now came out of bells and the children were happy, they kept learning, they were entertained … At the end of the quarantine, the children wanted to continue listening to the stories flying in the wind of the town. They didn’t want to stop listening to the stories. Something wonderful had happened: the children, in addition to listening, wanted to read. They began to come to borrow books from the Biblioteca de los Sueños (The Library of Dreams).

As the pandemic is not over, the children arrive with their masks, keep their distance and use sanitising gel. Children lend books, take them home, read them, and when they return them they bring with them a page of comments about the books, and illustrate with their own drawings what they have read.The children are cultivating the wonderful habit of reading. It is beautiful to help them cultivate their dreams …

If you have a story to share, do not hesitate to send it to us and we will be happy to post it on our blog. During these times, we all need stories of hope and creativity!