Through the public library of Boaco, 20 youth will participate in a pilot interactive reading club focusing on taboo topics such as sexual health, gender inequality, and domestic violence. The reading club will encourage discussion on these topics and foster creative expression through a photography assignment, in which students will take pictures that represent their culture and the themes conveyed in the books. Library staff will be leading and monitoring the three-month project with a goal of incorporating these reading clubs into its programming in a sustainable way.
The project was as huge success! The three reading groups of sixteen youth have been meeting each week to discuss the required reading and engage in activities to think critically and delve deeper into the issues of sexuality, gender equality, body image, self-esteem, and HIV/AIDs stigma and discrimination. Many participants have strongly identified with the readings, which has motivated them to continue their exploration into the meaning of identity and gender stereotypes. Many of the youth participants have taken their experiences from the readings to spread the message to their classmates, friends and other youth groups. For example, some of them have started volunteering in the community, reading to younger children and giving presentations to their peers. After being trained through photography workshops, the youth went out into the community to creatively document their experiences surrounding gender issues and equality and revealed their work at a photo exhibition, which was attended by over 40 community members. As a result of the reading clubs, the youth have developed higher self-esteem, better decision-making habits, and critical thinking skills, and have demonstrated their passion for human rights and social justice issues. For example, the participants have joined local campaigns to protect rivers from contamination, destigmatize HIV/AIDS, and raise awareness about mental health and eating disorders.
"I am motivated to read because I want to be able to obtain more knowledge to be a better student, a better daughter, a better reader, and a better person. I want to be able to grow professionally, intellectually, and become wiser. The books from the reading club have changed my perspective. They have taught me values and how to improve my character. Reading has changed my perceptions of the world; it has taught me to open my mind, to not be so judgmental, and to become more passionate about reading." - Keyla, 18, Project Participant
"The books we've read at our reading club have taught me different cultures, empathy for those with illnesses such as HIV, to not discriminate other people, to defend the rights of women, and the importance of gender equality. My perceptions about the world have changed." - Nathaly, 16, Project Participant
"I have liked the discussions, debates, and critical thinking that we've done in our reading clubs. We are already seeing the impact of what we've discussed and learned." - Mauricio, 22, Project Participant