Omar Cristiam Santos- Rio de palabras

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.