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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