LitWorld and Library of Congress Literacy Awards 2019!

On August 29th, 2019, the Library of Congress Announced Winners of 2019 Literacy Awards. LitWorld is thrilled to be one of the Library of Congress 2019 Literacy Awards Best Practice Honorees!

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The Library of Congress, which is the world’s largest library, offers access to extensive literature and materials from around the world. It annually awards its Literacy Awards, originated in 2013, to honor organizations doing innovative and powerful literacy work across the globe. This year, LitWorld has been awarded as one of the Literacy Awards Best Practice Honorees, for our implementation of best practices in literacy promotion.

LitWorld’s mission of strengthening kids and communities through the power of stories is amplified and supported by our transformational programming for children, their families and communities. Our approach of partnering with grassroots, local organizations and institutions has proven successful in creating a global communitiy of empowered individuals and fostering a new generation of children who are hopeful for the future! We are excited to be recognized by the Literacy Awards and seek to continue building our global network.

Click here for a full press release from the Library of Congress!

LitCamps Around the World: A Million Children Reached!

It has been a summer of wonder, learning, and powerful transformation for LitKids all around the world.

Reading is serious business at this LitCamp!

Reading is serious business at this LitCamp!

In the U.S., school districts and community partners across the country launched their own LitCamp programs, authored by LitWorld and published by Scholastic, to help students explore reading, writing, and creating in fun, engaging LitCamp spaces. Campers read a variety of literature, from picture books to Young Adult fiction and participated in diverse, engaging activities that focused on LitWorld’s 7 Strengths.

Kids, teachers and their families reported changing attitudes towards learning and literature, with LitCampers becoming more enthusiastic and responsive towards classroom activities. They also begsn reading independently and picking out their own books to read at LitCamp and at home, as this Scholastic case study shows.

When you’re at LitCamp, you have THIS much fun!

When you’re at LitCamp, you have THIS much fun!

LitWorld's Founder Pam Allyn, now SVP of Innovation for Scholastic Education, has is the chief LitCamp advocate and participant! This summer, Pam traveled all over the country to visit LitCamps, engaging with LitCampers in read-alouds and witnessing creative approaches to the “camp” theme that each classroom had. From California to New Jersey, children and their teachers report having a summer of authentic, engaging reading experiences, fostering the love of learning - one LitCamp day at a time!

Ready for Reading LitCamp participants

Ready for Reading LitCamp participants

Around the globe, LitCamps have flourished in communities from rural Zambia to Rwanda, Philippines to Honduras. LitWorld long-time partner Ready for Reading, based in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda, held their annual LitCamp from July 30th to August 2nd, with 147 children participating in the 3-day camp. The event was an incredible celebration of friendships and literacy and allowed students that usually stay at home during the summer to be involved in an exciting and engaging environment full of activities.

GoYe Therefore Zambia LitFest Participant

GoYe Therefore Zambia LitFest Participant

In Zambia, the summer was also incredibly busy with LitCamps and LitFests. GoYe Therefore Zambia, held a Kindness Summer Litfest in the Zambian capital of Lusaka. The Summer LitFest brought together over 115 participants, which included LitClub kids and their family members, parents and guardians, media, mentors and other members of the community. Participants were spread out into four groups, each lead by a GoYe Therefore mentor and all were guided through the days activities, which focused on one of our 7 Strengths - Kindness.

Sanyambe, the GoYe Therefore Partnership Coordinator shared:

The event was so exciting and there was full participation in all activities! Members were able to express what Kindness meant to them in English and in the local language. The community building activities were engaging and all members were happy to participate and learn.
— Sanyambe, GoYe Therefore Partnership Coordinator

Our hearts are full, inspired, and hopeful after another summer of successful LitWorld programs. We are grateful to all mentors, teachers, children, families and communities for making it possible to explore and foster a love for literacy and joy in safe, empowered spaces this summer. After all, when we all work together, we are able to create a whole new world of opportunity and hope!

Ready for Reading LitKids celebrating!

Ready for Reading LitKids celebrating!

LitWorld recognized as one of 13 Semifinalists for 2019 Nonprofit Excellence Awards!

Exciting news!!!

Exciting news!!!

LitWorld is excited to announce that we have been chosen by Nonproft New York as one of the thirteen semifinalists in its 2019 Nonprofit Excellence Awards!

Through these awards, Nonprofit New York aims to recognize nonprofit organizations that show transparent, sustainable best practices and ways of working. LitWorld has been selected amongst other incredible and diverse New York-based organizations, ranging from community health centers to career support services.

The highlighted nonprofits provide critically important programming and support to undeserved communities worldwide, at a time when there is a profound amount of need for literacy and empowerment education.

LitWorld is honored to be recognized together with these organizations, and we are working hard on the second part of the application for the Awards! Thank you for all who support the work that we do - together, we can continue to reach children and communities worldwide!

LitClubs celebrate The Day of the African Child!

“We are the future generation, called for to show his excellency. All what we require LitClub has shown me, I know who I am, I know how to read and write, sharing and viewing, I know who I am. I am walking in power, I walk in success, I live a life of reading, I am not ignorant.”

This inspiring anthem was echoed by our amazing LitClub Members during the Day of African Child Celebrations in Zambia!

This year, LitWorld’s amazing partner, GoYe Therefore Zambia (GYT), celebrated the Day of the African Child under the theme “Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First”. During that week, coincidently, the LitClub members were learning about the Universal Declaration on the Rights of the Child and were developing their Community Bill of Rights. Therefore, this day presented a great opportunity for them to share their learnings with other kids in the schools in such an awesome celebration!

The Nyanzabili LitBoys and LitGirls made the most out of the exciting activities that were planned for the Day of the African Child celebrations!

The Nyanzabili LitBoys and LitGirls made the most out of the exciting activities that were planned for the Day of the African Child celebrations!

The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the OAU Organization of African Unity. It honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.

 “The LitClub members were excited with the presentation about the Day of the African Child and sharing the Rights of the Child during the celebrations for the International Day of the Child. It was also exciting to read out the Universal Declaration on the Rights of the Child and know and understand what rights they had despite not knowing them well,”
said Sanyambe Mweemba, the Partnership Coordinator for GoYe, expressing her excitement on the children’s overwhelming participation on that day.

Students perform traditional dancing for the big day!

Students perform traditional dancing for the big day!

A lot of LitClubs celebrated the event through poems & songs (written by them), dances, role plays and advertising children’s rights messages with paintings on stones, walls and trash bins. About 500 children and adults attended the activities that were presented by the LitClub members and GYT. This granted LitMembers the opportunity to sensitize other children within their school environment on children’s rights including teachers and parents from the community.

Other activities included an Anthem Presentation under the theme “My comic book: Welcome to my world.” In Welcome to my World, kids were identifying the kind of world they want to live in. Many of the LitClub members’ world was within their comfort zone and within the country, while others preferred to explore the whole world and this gave them hope to know what other countries are like.

Little Grace wants to visit England some day; Christine wants a big house and a happy life in her world; Joshua wants a big mansion; Alex wants everything, and he wants to see the tallest building like the Twin Towers of America; and Aaron wants to explore new things!  - shared Sanyambe

Here’s to a future of hope, curiosity and belonging for LitKids and communities all around the world! To participate in our #SummerofStrengths campaign, head over to our social media to share your stories!

A Day in Ahmedabad - Reflections From A Partner Visit

Program Innovation Coordinator Steph Alkhatib with mentor Sajeda and LitClub members

Program Innovation Coordinator Steph Alkhatib with mentor Sajeda and LitClub members

On May 17th, 2019, Steph Alkhatib, LitWorld’s Program Innovation Coordinator, visited one of our long-time partners, the Centre for Development in Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat, in western India. The following are her reflections and memories of a day spent with amazing LitKids and staff of CfD.

Hold on tight for that rickshaw ride!

Hold on tight for that rickshaw ride!

On Friday morning, I arrived at the CFD office and was greeted by Komal, a recent 12-standard graduate and member of the Kadam Resource Centre for girls, as well as Meera and Prasad, the Directors of the organization and Partnership Coordinators between CFD and LitWorld.

They explained that CFD works mostly with Muslim and Dalit communities in Ahmedabad. The city’s communities are pretty segregated; there’s a history of persecution and inequality between Hindus and Muslims in the city. One side of the city is modern and predominantly owned by Bramhan Hindus (the highest Hindu caste), who won’t rent or sell to those from lower casts or Muslims. The other side is old city, rich in culture but unfortunately poor in opportunity, where most Muslim and Dalit (‘Untouchables’, the lowest Hindu caste) communities are. Meera explained that these communities tend to be very conservative; the gender disparity is huge, child marriage does exist, girl children are unwanted, don’t leave the house for extended periods of time and their education is low priority.

While Meera and I started our journey around old city via auto(rickshaw), she gave me a little background on the LitClubs. They have 16 clubs, 12 girls’ and 4 boys’ clubs. Some have been running up to 4 years, and often mentors run several clubs.

We pulled up to a neighborhood where two girls’ LitClubs were meeting in a first floor room. I also met the senior mentor Sajeda there, who joined us for the day and was very kind and helpful with translating and getting around!

The LitClubs greeted me with the Hello song! Each club sat in a circle as they worked on art projects where they used recycled materials to create objects: a bed, purse, lanterns, tiny suitcase - all made from recycled paper, cardboard and fabric. It was truly creative. I asked a few questions about their favorite activities, and something they learned from LitClub, and I heard some amazing replies. Several girls mentioned that their demeanor had changed; before LitClub, they were very withdrawn, and now they felt confident. A girl said she was very aggressive with her family before LitClub, and now she gets along with them well.

LitClub members welcome Steph with the Hello song

LitClub members welcome Steph with the Hello song

A younger girl told a story of action she took in her community after gaining courage from her LitClub. She said before LitClub, there was a problem with water access in her community. After LitClub she gained courage to get her family and community to talk to the municipality about fixing the problem.

After leaving, Meera shared that these stories are common. She’s seen remarkable change in all of the children in LitClubs over the years. Due to the repression kids experience in their homes, they often join LitClubs as either withdrawn or aggressive individuals. After some time being supported by mentors and building relationships with the other girls or boys, they begin to open up and get comfortable with themselves and others.

Proud LitClub member ❤️

Proud LitClub member ❤️

Next, we visited a LitClub in Khodi Nagar, a Dalit community. Meera mentioned that Dalit people are often treated very unfairly by other castes, like ‘less than human’. She said one of the benefits of LitClub meetings in this community is that the members learn about two Dalit advocates, helping them recognize that they, too, deserve human rights.

When talking with the children, a girl named Dimple shared that she is excited to start school this year and do well. Also, she went to her uncle’s house to motivate others to go to school as well. She likes LitClubs because they have given her courage and confidence. Go Dimple!

We left Khodi Nagar to head to Meera’s home, where she hosted us for lunch. Prasad told me about the difficulties they have in finding adequate stories for the LitClubs. Most stories available are either fables based around singular 'morals', stories translated from another language with unrelatable context, or more violent folk-tales that represent problematic gender, class, or violence norms.To address this challenge, a few years ago CFD had a retreat with the mentors, where they wrote hundreds of short stories and are now able to use those stories in LitClubs.

After lunch, we headed to Mumbai Hotel to visit a boys’ LitClub. The boys were sweet and very reserved while meeting me. We bonded about biryani though--it’s my favorite dish and during Ramadan, Muslim communities often eat it after breaking fast at night. The boys shared that they liked the ‘Stand Up for Girls’ event, where they learned that either a boy or a girl can do any household job or have any career. A boy named Rohit shared that the day before, a girl from his neighborhood had gone missing, and he and his friend went out, found her and brought her home; Meera mentioned that this sense of community was cultivated by mentorship at LitClubs.

Sharing the Check-in Question with a LitClub friend

Sharing the Check-in Question with a LitClub friend

Next, we visited a community located nearby to a massive, at least 1x1 square km trash pile hosting all of Ahmedabad’s garbage, where Meera said the kids sometimes play or collect scrap metal to sell. The community has both a boys’ and a girls’ LitClub. The girls were playing and hanging around outside while the boys’ club was going on. The boys were working on what I believe was a ‘Curiosity Commercials’ activity--they had some great illustrations!

LitClubs have created a space where the children feel comfortable asking her questions. They come to her with questions all the time. There are a lot of things children wonder about, but in more conservative communities, some subjects—such as marriage, relationships, or gender roles—are taboo to question. Parents, relatives, or friends may reject such questions, not know the answer, or give an answer that perpetuates restrictive societal norms.

I asked the group mentor, Rajini, her thoughts on LitClubs--what’s working, and anything she’d like to change. She had a powerful response: LitClubs have created a space where the children feel comfortable asking her questions. They come to her with questions all the time. There are a lot of things children wonder about, but in more conservative communities, some subjects--such as marriage, relationships, or gender roles--are taboo to question. Parents, relatives, or friends may reject such questions, not know the answer, or give an answer that perpetuates restrictive societal norms.

Children’s Day Artwork from the LitClubs

Children’s Day Artwork from the LitClubs

This narrative was very satisfying to hear for a few reasons. One, Prasad had mentioned earlier that adolescents in these communities struggle to navigate relationships; they don’t hear about or may not see healthy relationships, and often get into something unsafe or unhealthy, sometimes resulting in cheating, beating, eloping, or suicidal tendencies post-breakup. Having a receptive, open-minded adult to speak to about such topics can be life-changing for the adolescents in these communities. Secondly, since starting at LitWorld, a great concern and interest of mine has been LitWorld’s role in developing and ensuring that LitClub mentors are supporters and advocates of club members. I’ve wondered: are we offering enough training and support, what more could we do? After the success stories I heard and saw, however, I feel convinced that CFD and its mentors are doing an amazing job creating safe spaces for kids to learn, grow, and experience pure joy.

We left this community to visit 2 more LitClubs. Since it’s school break, many people were out of town, visiting their home villages 100 km away. Trupti--who also mentored the second group I visited--led the girls in some songs. This meeting was more laid back, so I asked the girls some casual questions, about their hobbies, some things they like to do outside of LitClubs and school or their job aspirations. The girls were reluctant to answer at first but after I encouraged them to think outside of their circumstances they eventually shared a few careers: scientist, social studies teacher and lots of aspiring teachers in general. Trupti asked me a few questions about the US and the gender roles there--I shared that although women have more opportunities there, there’s still wage and political representation disparities.

As I was getting ready to leave, feeling contemplative and inspired, a young LitClub member asked me, ‘if we get the chance, should we leave and travel?’. After a moment of reflection I told her that I thought that every time you visit a new place, you meet people who live and think different ways. Every new place teaches you something new about the world.