Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Book Bus Ecuador

Launched in March 2010, the BISEE Book Bus Ecuador has already worked with over 1800 children in 4 provinces: Manab’, Chimborazo, Napo and Pichincha.

During its first year, the bus has proved extremely popular with pupils and is always greeted with lots of smiles, waving and shouting! We have been working with primary school children (5-12 years) in small groups, reading stories together, letting children choose their own story to read alone and doing activities to improve children’s imagination. Imagination, creativity and curiosity are essential for children to get the most out of the stories, and are sadly lacking in rural parts of Ecuador visited by the bus. Although the literacy rate is quite high, children have no access to story books; their teachers don’t like reading and see no benefit in reading to the children. Next year we hope to work more closely with the teachers so that the children continue to benefit when the bus has moved on.

As well as working with the schools in the mornings, in the afternoons the bus is parked in the street and opens its doors to any child who wants to come onboard and read with us. We often get the same children come every day; these children have chosen to give up their free time to come and read stories, rather than having to as part of their school day.

In Chimborazo, when we found some children weren’t able to come some afternoons because they had homework to do, we decided to help them in the bus after reading. A lot of children in this area live with grandparents (who are often illiterate), as their parents have moved to the cities to find work. These children have no help with their homework, and one boy we worked with had failed many school years because he had no extra support. He was 11 and could barely read and write. it took a while for him to trust us enough to feel able to bring his homework as he was used to being laughed at for being so behind. In the month he worked with us his confidence soared and he started playing with the other children who came on the bus, who stopped making fun of him when they realised he was trying to learn.

Another girl we worked with also lived with her grandparents. She needed 8 sheets of plain A4 paper to do her homework, it only cost about 20 cents but her grandparents didn’t have the money; they were hoping to get it the day before the work was due in leaving her one evening to do all 8 pages of work. When we offered to give her the 8 sheets she needed the look of joy and relief on her face was amazing.

These are just two stories from two of the children we worked with this year. Every child has their own story to tell; when you walk around the market and see hundreds of children working to sell food or clothes you realise that every one of those has a different story. The only way out of poverty for these children is education, and if the Book Bus can inspire some of them through reading, we can really make a difference to their futures.

Annelisa Sadler
BISEE Book Bus volunteer 2010