The story of the reading festival

The Reading Festival, which takes place in Sucre, Bolivia, is the largest event organized by BiblioWorks. It gathers 2,000 students annually and more than 20 organizations participate as presenters. Have you ever asked yourself how this festival came to be so important in the region? Here is the story.

BiblioWorks had had the idea of organizing a fun activity that would encourage reading among students for several years. The local community had also been asking for a book fair. BiblioWorks wished to do something different than a book fair selling books. Instead, we wanted a festival that would encourage reading without the pressure of purchasing books; a celebration of reading for the sake of reading.

So what happened in 2012 that allowed the us to organize the first Reading Festival?

The key was the involvement of Gareth Leonard. Gareth is the founder and manager and has a passion for slow and meaningful travel. He had experience and knowledge of marketing and promotion, event organization, fundraising — pretty well everything that was needed to set up the very first reading festival!

Gareth and Matthew Lynn, the director of BiblioWorks at that time, worked hard to organize and set up the event. They coordinated with local authorities, fundraised the budget for the festival, recruited volunteers and coordinated with presenters.

Since that first reading festival, the event has grown a lot! The number of participants increased from 500 in 2012 to 1,500 in 2015; there were 13 organizations involved the first year and 20 last year. The festival had to be moved from a small plaza to the Casa de la Cultura (Cultural House), because of the expansion. It has become a huge success in Sucre!

The growth of the festival is due to the personal touch that every volunteer in charge of its organization has put into it each year. In 2012, Gareth launched the Reading Festival, but then Zannah Pierce (2013), Caroline Pardue (2014), Steph Dyson (2015), and now Megan Graff have each taken a turn in the subsequent years. Each of them has brought something new to the festival. The reading festival has become a success in only five years thanks their creativity and the enormous amount of work done by the BiblioWorks staff.

The festival has not only grown in numbers, but in its impact on the local community. One of our biggest accomplishments has been the participation of the KaraKara Suyo community. The KaraKara stand presented “intercultural reading”, a group of books about myths and costumes in their native language. This was one of the favorite activities of participants. Other participant organizations have increasingly created more and more creative activities to promote literacy at the reading festival.

With your help, this event can continue to grow and have an even greater positive impact.

Even if you are not in Sucre to attend the festival, you can take part by:

  • Providing books to children by donating even just $1 now via our Generosity campaign.
  • Spreading the word about this campaign, and about BiblioWorks and the great work we are doing in Bolivia by sharing this post.
  • Following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, and sharing the campaign amongst your followers!

Thank you!