Biblioburro

Luis-Humberto-Soriano-Col-Ejemp-Cultura-1800x1200-05032014In the early hours of the morning, long before the sun rises, primary school teacher Luis Soriano Bohorque selects books, loads them on his two donkeys, and journeys to remote villages in Colombia. His mission is to bring books and educational programs to over 300 rural children, many of whom have no access to reading materials. The program is called Biblioburro, and Luis has been operating it for over 14 years.

I got in touch with Luis after reading the splendid picture book Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane Books, 2010). Our interview has been translated from Spanish to English (you can read the original Spanish version here).

We are grateful to Paloma Moscardó-Valles from Princeton University’s Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures department for her translation work. ¡Muchas gracias Paloma!

You began this program in 1990. How did you come up with the idea for Biblioburro?
This idea was born in 1997. My community was in need of many things: there were no schools, nor teachers, the children couldn’t go to school, many of them worked. This is how I started this adventure with Alfa and Beto (my two donkeys) that we called BIBLIOBURRO (Donkey Library). Today it is a great blessing for more than 300 children of many communities in the department of Magdalena in Colombia.

aigo F300Describe a typical work day with this program.
A typical BIBLIOBURRO day starts at 3:00 a.m.: I choose the books and I start the journey. It can take up to 2 to 6 hours including the trip, getting the kids together, and starting the literacy and learning work. I return home before 5:00 p.m.

Please tell us about the children you visit.
The children that I visit live in a vulnerable situation, with few economic resources, many of them don’t have parents because they were killed in the Colombian Conflict some years ago. These children are full of dreams and hope and they want to move forward.

aigo F300Can you name a few of your favorite books from childhood?
Margarita de Baile (Margarita of Dancing), Cuentos y Aventuras para Niños (Stories and Adventures for Kids), Rin Rin Renacuajo ( Rin Rin Tadpole), among others.

How many books do you currently have in your library, and what kinds of books do you have?
Nowadays there are 6,000 books – stories, novels, fables, contemporary literature, encyclopedias, dictionaries.

What are some of the most popular titles with your patrons?
The most popular books are children stories, encyclopedias to search about important topics, and reference books.

What is one of your greatest hardships?
The biggest difficulty is not having resources for this task. We put great effort and sacrifice into our work. We need to repair the Library, to buy new equipment for the Biblioburro Digital, and I need a new prosthesis for my leg [Editor: Luis lost a leg in a traffic accident, but continued the program].

BiblioburroCould you tell us a little more about the Biblioburro Digital?
Biblioburro Digital is a program of learning reinforcement through computer and virtual educative programs. Books are still important for us. Biblioburro Digital has another program called “Countryside Movies” which are movie days for kids. It’s a very special moment to share. We have 5 computers and a projector. We urgently need a television for our library, and a new projector. We put in a lot of effort and dedication.

What are your plans for the program’s future?
In the future we’d like to have a Digital Library, better work tools, and more educational materials to strengthen the program.

What part of your work brings you the most joy and satisfaction?
All of my work gives me joy and satisfaction, seeing the kids happy when I arrive with my two donkeys is priceless. I love my job despite all the adversities and problems, and I always have a good disposition and attitude when facing the circumstances.

Caminos con Biblioburro


If you’d like to learn more about Luis and his program, you can visit the Biblioburro FaceBook page. All images are used with permission of Luis Soriano Bohorque.

Cheshire Cat Grin

cheshire cat grinSomething to smile about! I designed this Cheshire Cat project for an Alice in Wonderland program. It’s quick, easy, and the results are frabjous!

You’ll need:

First, select a grin from the template and use markers to color it. Glue (or tape, or hot glue) the smile to a jumbo craft stick. Make sure to leave about 1″ of space at the top of the stick for your whiskers and nose.

grin step 1Pinch the centers of the twisteez wires together, then secure them to the stick with masking tape. If you can’t find twisteez wires, use very thin strips of card stock for whiskers. I wouldn’t recommend using pipe cleaners. The ends can get rather sharp when you cut them, and that’s not good for a project that is held close to the eyes.

grin step 2Shape a square of self-adhesive foam into a cat nose, then peel and stick on top of the masking tape. You can also use regular foam and adhere the nose with hot glue.

grin step 3Trim and curl the whiskers (or leave them straight), and you’re done!

grin step 4Hold the project to your face to become a cat with a grin, or hold it away from you to demonstrate a grin without a cat!

Baby New Year

baby new year readsBaby New Year is here, and we thought we would celebrate with a baby story time post!

We invited the talented Peggy Salwen to our library to lead a story time bonanza for children ages 2-24 months. Peggy has been a librarian for over 40 years, and is currently a Senior Children’s Librarian at the New York Public Library. Legendary for her baby skills, massive stock of songs, and playful props, Peggy expertly led a very large crowd of babies and caretakers through books, songs, and movement activities. After the program, I sat down to chat with Peggy about the tricks of her trade.

baby new yearYou obviously brought books with you today, but you also brought puppets, props, and a big stuffed bear. Tell us about your props!

I use a lot of puppets and props with babies.  When I read Peek a Moo, I have little puppets that go with every one of the characters. I have a cow puppet, and then pig, a mouse, and an owl. Some are finger puppets, some are hand puppets.

puppets and propsMy Peek-A-Boo mittens I always use with babies. The mittens are in a box and, while I’m sure it’s a bit obnoxious for the parents, I repeatedly use the box during story time. Repetition is so important for babies, and they love it when I take the top off of the box, take Mr. Peek and Mr. Boo out of the box, and then put them back in the box. The babies just get so excited because they know what’s going to happen. It’s all ritual, and ritual is a big thing. I’ve had Poppy [a big stuffed panda bear] for a long time. He’s my “baby.” I use him to demonstrate for parents what they are supposed to do with their babies.

poppyYou brought a number of flap books to story time today. They were great! I could see the kids anticipating what was going to happen next…

Yes! I don’t love the flap books as much in the library’s collections, but I really like the flap books for baby story time.

What’s the hardest thing about baby story times?

Getting the adults to stop talking and to participate, I think.

How do you get parents to stop talking and participate?

By concisely saying “This is story time. Put your phones away. Don’t talk to your neighbor. This is the one time we ask you to take 20 minutes and be with your baby.” Baby story time is really for the adults, it’s not so much for the babies! It’s for adults to learn how to do things and to show their children that they want to do these things. It’s for them to see how much fun it can be to be with their babies. You are a baby’s first teacher. I think that’s the key. You’re there to teach them how to enjoy life, how to learn. That’s what I believe is most important.

baby story timeWhat’s your advice for someone who’s brand new, who’s facing his/her very first baby story time?

Sing a lot of songs. Say a lot of rhymes. It’s more about the songs and the rhymes than it is about the books! Do fewer books and more songs and rhymes. Being a librarian, you think you have to do the book thing. Yes, reading the books is important, but for baby story time, songs and bouncy rhymes are more important.  I learned in a workshop that lyrics to songs are like syllables of words, so your child learns the syllables of words when you sing. So singing is a great way to learn language too!


Peggy’s Favorite Story Time Books

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn
The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin
Peek-a-Moo! By Marie Torres Cimarusti
Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz
Where is Baby’s Belly Button? By Karen Katz
Tuck Me In! by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes by Annie Kubler
If You’re Happy and You Know It by Annie Kubler
Baa Baa Black Sheep by Annie Kubler

Songs & Rhymes
“Open Shut Them”
“This is Me”
“These Are Baby’s Fingers”
“Little Red Wagon”
“Tommy Thumbs”
“We’re Going to the Moon”
“Tick Tock, Tick Tock”
“Mother and Father and Uncle John”
“Banana Cheer”
“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
“The Noble Duke of York”