Silent Reading Party: Villa Nueva, San José Villa Nueva at Guatemala

English version

Image by Marilinda Guerrero. Children reading during a Silent Reading Party in San José Villa Nueva, Guatemala

I have always found the fragrance of old and new books satisfying, in fact, the feeling is quite tender when I remember all the summer late-nights I spent since the very moment I learned how to read. When I read, an image fills out my memory: A small girl, me, reading a book with my parents. For me this is some sort of a privilege, I cannot possibly remember these scenes told by other kids back then nor now in my home country: Guatemala.

I learned about books, but also about the real life out there for them. In 2017 an online local newspaper emphasized that there are only 356 libraries in the entire country, from them 63 are private, 29 recently closed and each library registers no more than 500 visitors per year. Only 12% of the population visit a library (we have no records about bookstores) and 73% don’t monitor their books through an online catalog. These numbers were visible to me without this study.

As an avid reader, I became a privileged bookkeeper which for many years I wanted to share my love for books. When I grew up I couldn’t sleep and I started to think about this character in my head: a urban librarian, a kind of librarian that would take books for a walk.

Reading online pages I learned about wandering libraries and other type of activities like Silent Reading Parties. By 2015 I began this wandering library project with two beloved friends, Cristina and Lidia, and my boyfriend back then. Due to some circumstances I wasn’t able to take my books out on a monthly basis, but then again I came across about Silent Book Club parties this year and brought me memories of what I did back then. My books were still there, the box was still there, so once again I gathered energy and started to ask for support and places where to read with my friends and other people.

It’s been a hard walk, and on the run I found aid in three places that represented an exception: Mona Café, Up House and Watson Books and Coffee. All of them were wonderful and warm, they opened their doors and helped me calling out people to read at a cafe. I’m still waiting for librarians to jump in and participate.

Those parties were awesome! They even found the right reading playlist for readers and made us special bookworm menus, but I have friends that find hard to come to the city to join us to the party. Their comments reminded me about the main objective of this wandering library called: Lectorante, now Página Llena, and it’s to take books and reading parties to another level. We’re focused to rethink how libraries are built and to take the books to the readers.

They were right, so I contacted an avid reader and writer, Marilinda Guerrero (the one that insisted me to visit her and made me remember about our decentralization goal). Without any doubt I went to Villa Nueva last month and this past Sunday to San José Villa Nueva. My husband likes what I do and without any doubt he jumps to help and carry books. It’s his reading time too. I see her massive box and mine at the park, full of books for all ages. Short stories, poems, children’s books and wrote a few posters with the words: Reading Party! Come to read!

The same things had happened. When we settle under a big nice three, people sees us and think that we’re selling books, but when we explain the process, they quickly go to the box, search for a book and join us. We recommend books to kids and young girls. And during the activities we have met awesome readers like Brian, he was the youngest reader last month. He read three books! and this Sunday, we met Ever. He was hugging and playing with the Dostoevsky short stories book, then screamed I read it! We all laughed. Not a quite silent reading party when there are children involved, but definitely a book party.