The team in our blue BiblioWorks shirts
I had been hearing about the Feria de la Lectura for months before I arrived in Bolivia. Before I even crossed the border, I had a blue BiblioWorks team shirt waiting for me in the office, and by the time the big day arrived, I was completely caught up in the excitement.
In the days leading up to the Feria (Literacy Festival), the BiblioWorks team and I hung up signs all over town, handed out flyers, created props and designed activities, and blew up more than 500 balloons. I even overcame my fear of public-speaking and advertised the Feria on live radio.
More than 500 balloons ready to be given away
Biblioworks designated April as the “Mes de la lectura y la ninez,” a month to honor reading and children, and the Feria represented its climax. In the first half of the month, the team had already promoted literacy on public transportation and taken part in a march for childrens’ rights. The Feria, however, was to be a full-day festival that would introduce children to the love of books. Biblioworks recruited 20 institutions to prepare stands with activities to encourage reading, invited children from Sucre’s schools and orphanages, and obtained hundreds of prizes to give away.
On the morning of the big day, the BiblioWorks team and I rushed through the streets of Sucre, trailing armfuls of colorful balloons. Once we arrived, we had our work cut out for us. The festival was scheduled to start at 9:00am, but the site was still full of scenery from a concert the night before – including a cutout of a dinosaur that reached to the second story.
With many hands helping, we managed to get everything set up as the first school group was arriving. After that, the day became a blur of activity. I stood in the door, handing out balloons to children as they left and welcoming those who entered. Librarians from BiblioWorks’ rural libraries read stories aloud, created comic strips, and analyzed the lyrics of popular songs. Other volunteers put on an enormous costume of a condor, BiblioWorks’ mascot, and drummed up attention on the street.
The BiblioWorks Condor
When the stream of visitors finally slowed around lunchtime, I visited the stands of other institutions. A foundation for the deaf was teaching children to read sign language. The municipal library offered books for every age, from wordless picture books for toddlers to a complete set of the Harry Potter books in Spanish. Other stands played games, painted on banners, or handed out books.
Children learn sign language at a stand at the Feria
A BiblioWorks volunteer reads the story of BlancaNieves – Snow White
It was most exciting, however, to see people reading everywhere. Whether tucked into corners or settled right in the middle of the crowds, they were experiencing the joy of reading, perhaps for the first time. As the children left, clutching the books they had won as prizes, I gave them balloons with the slogan, “Los libros pueden cambiar el mundo.” It captured both the Biblioworks philosophy and the spirit of the Feria: “Books can change the world.”
Los libros pueden cambiar el mundo.
Books can change the world.
– Diane (BiblioWorks volunteer April-May 2013)