Colonial Puerto Vallarta Gets Its First Library

NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT: Cathy Leiber
www.JudithsReadingRoom.org

Public School in Colonial Puerto Vallarta Gets Its First Library

Without English language competency, locals are relegated to the lowest jobs

February 5, 2024 — Judith’s Reading Room announced today that it has donated 538 curated children’s books valued at $3,632 to create the first-ever library at Escuela ‘Agustin Flores Contreras’ in colonial Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

During the week of February 19-26, four members of the organization’s board of directors, (two of whom are fluent in Spanish) will teach English to all 189 students and prepare their teachers for continuing education in English.

According to Maria Guadalupe Ramirez Lopez (“Lupita”), principal, her public school has no books at all – not in English, not in Spanish — no computers nor laptops, and worst of all, no English teacher.  This, in one of the world’s most luxurious resorts with cruise ships docked in sight  of the school, where many tourists do not speak Spanish yet expect hospitality staff to speak English.

Parents of these school children, who live in villages high above the coastline in the soaring Sierra Madre mountains hold some of Puerto Vallarta’s lowest level jobs:  dishwashers, maids, curiosity vendors — because they lack a knowledge of English.  Judith’s Reading Room hopes to end this cycle by offering outstanding children’s literature with early reader books in English and bilingual books.

A most incredible thing happened in October:  these same parents approached Lupita to tell her that their children needed to learn English.  Without resources, and despite repeated requests to school authorities in Guadalajara, she felt completely helpless.  Then, as if by magic, the founders of Judith’s Reading Room happened upon her school during an unplanned vacation week in Puerto Vallarta.

Judith’s Reading Room, a global non-profit literacy organization founded in 2010 in the memory of the founders’ cousin, Judith F. Krug, a librarian, has as its mission:  “to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.”  In this spirit, the organization has already dedicated 105 libraries in 23 countries, including one in Todos Santos, Mexico.  Upon learning the dismal reality of administrating an under-resourced public school in Puerto Vallarta, the Leibers immediately determined that these 189 children, ages 6-10 would within months receive books to create the school’s first-ever library.

Judith’s Reading Room reached out to local Pennsylvania partners — The Children’s Home of Easton, ProJeCt of Easton and Barnes & Noble, Center Valley PA to seek guidance on the most important children’s books to include in the collection — books proven to be effective in helping children learn English.

Today, parents are painting and outfitting the Judith’s Reading Room Library salon with custom-built shelves.  Parents will learn English along with their children and  in this manner, they will change the trajectory of generations.  They understand that with a command of English, they will no longer be relegated to the lowest rung of society, the lowest rung of employment.

The 106th Judith’s Reading Room library is named in honor of Ms. Lola Danielli, Cathy Leiber’s high school Spanish teacher who Cathy credits as being “the most important teacher in her entire life.”  About Ms. Danielli, Cathy says, “she inspired me to excel at Spanish, she enthused me with the thrill that comes from deeply understanding others in their own language.”  Ms. Danielli recently retired from teaching in the Acalanes School District in northern California after 58 years.

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Judith’s Reading Room Sheds Light on Underprivileged Schoolchildren

NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT: Cathy Leiber
www.JudithsReadingRoom.org

 

Judith’s Reading Room Sheds Light on Underprivileged Schoolchildren in Mexico’s Tourist ‘Hot Spot’

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico — December 7, 2023 — In one of Mexico’s most glamorous tourist towns, where cruise ships dominate the skyline and fancy hotels like the Four Seasons and Vidanta attract wealthy visitors, children of the poorest families — whose parents serve as restaurant dish washers, resort maids, and sellers of handmade crafts on the local beaches — attend a public school without a library, without books, without computers or laptops, and without an English teacher.

After having been re-routed due from Acapulco to Puerto Vallarta due to the catastrophic CAT 5 Hurricane ‘Otis’ that hit and destroyed Acapulco on October 24, 2023, Judith’s Reading Room founders, Scott and Cathy Leiber, found themselves in Puerto Vallarta where they chanced upon Escuela ‘Agustin Flores Contreras’ and proceeded to introduce themselves to a teacher and then the school principal.

Judith’s Reading Room was founded in 2010 in the memory of Judith F. Krug , cousin to the founders, who served for 40 years as the Director, Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association in Chicago, IL. The mission of Judith’s Reading Room is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.

It was in that spirit and commitment that the Leiber’s engaged with Maria Guadalupe Ramirez Lopez (Lupita), principal of the school, who for two hours explained the trials and tribulations of educating children in the public school system without resources. The school serves 189 children, ages 6-10, who go home each afternoon without books.

Ms. Ramirez-Lopez explained that just two days before our arrival she had had a meeting with parents who expressed their anxiety about the lack of books — and especially the lack of teaching in English — that they felt their children would never come out from under the yoke of illiteracy. They implored Ms. Ramirez-Lopez to find a way to help their children learn English so that they could enjoy the benefits of jobs serving the world’s English speaking tourists. Without knowing any of this, the Leibers arrived and explained to Ms. Ramirez-Lopez the mission of Judith’s Reading Room and their strong desire to inaugurate a library at the school. It would be the organization’s 106th library and its 2nd library in Mexico.

A chance encounter — met with a strong desire on the part of parents and teachers — led to an immediate commitment — to purchase $1,000 in children’s books and to return in February 2024. The agreement involves the parents, some of whom are carpenters, who will volunteer and build shelves in the room that will be designated as the Judith’s Reading Room library. Furthermore, four members of the Board of Directors will fly to Mexico the week of February 19th to read aloud children’s books in English and who will engage with teachers and parents to encourage a life-long love of reading.

The 106th Judith’s Reading Room library will be named in honor of Ms. Lola Danielli, Cathy Leiber’s high school Spanish teacher who Cathy credits with having “changed my life.” Ms. Danielli retired from teaching after 58 years in the Acalanes School System. Over 200 former students and friends attended her retirement party.

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