Colombian Kiwanians lead an innovative literacy program for children.
Story by Danielle Castonzo
After school, groups of kindergarten students gather around tables of open books to read, listen and laugh with their peers and families in Sincelejo, Colombia. Some students wear colorful masks or costumes to embody the characters in the stories.
Reading is My Story, a daily activity, encourages students to read, write and think creatively. It is a collaboration between the Sincelejo Kiwanis club and Colombia’s Ministry of National Education.
This project promotes the development of oral and written language, allowing students the opportunity to express themselves creatively and communicate effectively from a young age. And it’s no passive reading group, says Berenice Larios de Rodríguez, past president of the Sincelejo Kiwanis club. The program uses diverse strategies such as art, games, real-world exploration and direct contact with books and illustrations to engage participants.
¨The children (in this program) have had the opportunity to fearlessly enter the exciting world of words and, through this, let their imagination run wild, acting out stories, taking on the characters and, above all, understanding the content,” Larios de Rodríguez says.
Through singing, dancing, clapping and shouting, students experience the stories in a more holistic way. To promote participation, Reading is My Story encourages parents to get involved as well. On weekends, parents bring home a story or fable to read with their children, dramatizing the tales that reinforce the week’s theme. Once a month, parents join their children to read a story with the group. They also participate in a Language Day ceremony with the students.
Larios de Rodríguez believes that involving parents has made reading a family activity, encouraging the students to continue learning outside of the classroom. The project also has strengthened the relationship between the school and parents, who have seen the impact of their involvement on the students.
“It fills us with joy, the children’s enthusiasm and the satisfaction of the parents, who have taken the project as their own,” Larios de Rodríguez says.
The project also has reduced conflict and aggression among the students, who enjoy working together to act out the stories.
“The learning has been reciprocal,” Larios de Rodríguez says. “The members of Kiwanis Club of Sincelejo have learned so much, and above all, we have had the opportunity to work with these fantastic children.”
This story originally appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Kiwanis magazine.