Opportunity Tree’s Library Enrichment Project works in rural elementary schools in the Rivas region of Nicaragua. It started by supporting educational enrichment and has evolved to establishing in-school libraries. An exciting new component of Opportunity Tree’s program is providing permanent, on-site library collections at some of the elementary schools served by the Mobile Library. The libraries are designed to provide books that facilitate all aspects of literacy, as well as across-the-curriculum learning in social studies and history, the natural sciences, and the literary and other arts. There are always reference books, including an encyclopedia. Opportunity Tree’s program also provides materials and teaching support so that teachers can enrich the learning opportunities of their students over time.
Hester J. Hodgdon Libraries for All, our partner for this effort, is a wonderful liaison with teachers and students. Their staff visit schools on a regular basis and support the newly automated lending system that helps prevent book loss. In addition, books are rotated among schools to refresh the collections periodically. These simple schoolhouses have chalkboards or whiteboards, but few materials. Families preoccupied with making ends meet almost never own books and there are no accessible library facilities for rural families, so children are thrilled by the in-school libraries.
A key feature of this program is taking books and hands-on, imaginative educational approaches and supplies to remote villages where learning tends to be rote and supplies limited or nonexistent. Not only do students have opportunities for experiential learning, but their teachers learn how to teach in a more interactive way that stimulates creative and critical thinking. The presence of books in the classroom offers many possibilities for enhanced learning. We have met with teachers at the schools served by the Library Enrichment Project. They are enthusiastic about the program and excited that the books are benefitting their students and the students’ families.
Teachers are thrilled to have books available at all times in their classroom and for students to check them out for additional reading at home. They report that thanks to interaction with storybooks and other library materials, students’ social-emotional skills have improved. Reading and other literacy skills are also improving rapidly. When students take books home, they interact with their families around books and encourage their parents to participate in their learning. Demand for these in-school libraries at additional schools is strong. We now support 12 schools.