Building a love for reading
Students on Bainbridge and Ometepe relate to school books very differently. On Bainbridge, students grumble about the weight of the textbooks they carry home each day. On Ometepe, many students just wish they had a book. So for many years, the Sister Islands Association has worked with schools on Ometepe to start and equip school libraries.
When the committee started more than 10 years ago, there were only two libraries. Now, among the 39 schools on Ometepe, 24 have libraries, and 11 of them are staffed by librarians.
First library delegation
In 2010, connections between our Library and Educational Materials Committee and school librarians on Ometepe deepened through the first Library Delegation from Bainbridge to Ometepe. One main focus of the trip was facilitating library workshops in Altagracia, Balgue and Moyogalpa primary schools. The goal was to bring librarians and teachers from around the island together to share their experiences and learn from each other—and for the Bainbridge group to learn more about needs on Ometepe, assess the value of the committee’s work over the years, and make contact with other non-governmental organizations working in this area on Ometepe.
Thirty-eight of the thirty-nine schools sent one or more representatives to the workshops; there were 67 attendees in all, including five presenters from three school libraries on Ometepe: Mercedes Lorío Monge from Altagracia (Ruben Dario), Mirta Centeno and Ileana Carrillo from Balgüe Primaria, Lea Seneida Martinez from San Jose del Sur, and Darling Potoy Rosales from the high school in Altagracia (Ladislao Chwalbinsky). In addition, an invitation was extended to two independent projects, the Nuestra Piqueños Hermanos (an orphanage near Los Angeles) and Proyecto Mano Amigo (in Balgüe).
The library committee returned to Ometepe in 2014, after receiving a $7,000 grant from the PaperSeed Foundation, a California non-profit started by CellMark, a company that provides supply chain services to the paper, metals and chemical industries. The grant provided money to create a model school library at the K-12 school in San Jose del Sur and materials for a workshop where librarians from other schools could learn how to set up similar libraries at their schools. Representatives of 15 schools and the Mano Amigo program in Balgüe attended.
Each year, schools on Ometepe can request grants from the library committee for up to $250 in books, maps, whiteboards, DVD players and even cabinets to keep books safe from rodents, bugs and dust. Although some of the grants are funded through general Sister Islands money, including profits from coffee sales, the committee also has been lucky to receive very generous donations from The Traveler, a bookstore and travel-gear company on Bainbridge. Since the store opened in 1995, owners Barbara Tolliver and Susan Taylor have donated 5 percent of December gross profit to our library programs each year. In 2014, proceeds from calendars made and sold by Ordway third-graders paid for books delivered to six schools on Ometepe.