The Grand Opening of the La Paloma Elementary School Library

“In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain


The Grand Opening of the new La Paloma Elementary School Library was held the end of November, 2014. After months of remodeling, painting, categorizing, making book shelves, and organizing the books into simple genres, we held a book party with a piñata, food, a dance, and a ribbon cutting ceremony.  All 85 children enrolled in the elementary school received a new book to take home.


“What is in our new library?” the girls wondered.
IMG_5331The Kids Korner has over 400 books for Preschool – 3rd grade, games, puppets, puzzles, reference materials, and a shelf for reading aloud books.  The bulletin board has pictures of the Red Oak Elementary school students, their sister school.
IMG_2907All the children made a butterfly for the butterfly tree. I donated a DVD player and we can show audio and visual DVDs that go with sets of books. There is a volunteer box full of materials for activities when volunteers come to the library to read to the children.
IMG_5325I made a list of Responsive Classroom rules for the library…all very positive that we can review with the students.
IMG_5142The section of the library for older students has a bookcase for teachers’ materials and books, a bookcase with reference materials (atlases, encyclopedias, and other reference books), and other bookcases are filled with educational, “how-to”, history, science, mathematics, geography, and chapter book genres.
IMG_5326After the Opening Ceremonies with speeches by the students and teachers, it was party time!
IMG_5338The piñata is stuffed with candy and ready to go!
IMG_5259The dancing begins!
IMG_5344Then, each class enters the library. We review the rules, take them on a tour, and give them each a book to take home with them. The Preschoolers love their new library.
IMG_5351First and second graders
IMG_5352Third and fourth graders
IMG_5356The children sit quietly and read while the piñata is hung in a tree.
IMG_5359IMG_5364IMG_5365The piñata is beaten to death.
IMG_5374The Preschool girls cradle the little doll from the piñata.
IMG_5370Sandwiches and juice are passed around to everyone.
IMG_5379I am so grateful for all the donations of books, supplies, materials, and time given to help start the first La Paloma Elementary School Library. Thank you for your support and your loving kindness.

This is only the beginning. When school starts back for a new year in February, I am hiring a part-time librarian and training the librarian to work in the new library. Then, I’ll set up a volunteer program for other students, parents, grandparents, and groups that come to Puesta Del Sol to volunteer to read and do activities for the students. I even have plans to build a puppet stage for the kids.

The parents, students, and staff at the La Paloma Elementary School are extremely grateful for your support. They send you flowers and their love. Muchas gracias mis amigos.
IMG_4888If you are interested in how I set-up the library, please send me an email and I can give you more information. Establishing a new culture of reading is a very tricky process. It had to be done as simply as possible with a simple color coded genre system.

Stay tuned for How You Can Help. I have 21 more elementary schools on the island and I would like to start a library in every one of them.


30 thoughts on “The Grand Opening of the La Paloma Elementary School Library

  1. What a wonderful project! We are visiting Ometepe in February for a few days (staying at American Cafe) and would love to help in some way. Would you prefer that we bring books, or something else? Please email if you have a moment.

  2. I’m so impressed with what you have accomplished! I grew up near a library and spent many Saturdays and summer afternoons in the stacks and toting home adventures to read and fuel my imagination. A book will educate, entertain and fuel further explorations and dreams for these kids and you have much to be proud of! Anita

    • Thanks Anita. It has been a long journey in experimentation. Like you, I can’t imagine a world without books. The library is close to my house, so I’ll be able to visit often and volunteer to read to the kids. Now, I just need to practice my Spanish pronunciations. I think I’m on the same level as the students, so it should be interesting. lol

  3. I can only imagine the amount of energy, collaboration, sheer will power, and frustration this project entailed. But what a beautiful and successful outcome. Reading opens new worlds to children and who knows what they’ll undertake because they now have access to books!
    When I visited the island of Dominica some years ago, I found out that the book mobile was broken down and nobody knew when (or if) it would be repaired. It was the only source of books and leisure reading for children and adults in the area. Once home, I collected books from public library sales, donations, and yard sales and was able to ship several shipping containers to two schools on Dominica. Luckily, it’s an English speaking country and it was easy to find children’s books. I had to truck the boxes of books (several thousands) to the shipping agent in the DC area (5 hrs drive) and shipping was more expensive than the re-sale value of the books. But I enjoyed making the whole thing happen and thinking of all the people who would read the books.
    I wouldn’t know where to begin finding books in Spanish (living where I live). It seems like you found great sources and sponsors. Looking forward to updates.

    • Wow, Annette. That’s awesome. I thoroughly enjoy hearing about your adventures in sharing a love of reading. It’s not an easy process…that is for sure. Yet, the will to make it happen creates such an adrenaline rush, that for me, it is impossible to stop.
      My next project is to create a donation page where people can stuff a virtual backpack full of school supplies for when school starts again in February. I’ll just buy all the backpacks and supplies here with donations. I saw a great website for Operation Shoe Box, where people could virtually stuff a shoebox with toys and other items. I’d really like to know how to create a website like that.
      Thanks for sharing your experience, Annette.

  4. Oh, Debbie. I am so excited for you and these kids. Reading through all the comments and your replies filled in many gaps. I, too, would be furious at the breaking in and stealing…from children, no less. But,your perseverance, I’m sure, will pay off. You’ve learned so much and keep adapting.
    This community is blessed to have you both.

    • Lynne, I was so angry about the break-in, but then I thought about the size of the person that had to squeeze through a narrow opening to get into the library. It had to be a child, maybe a family desperate for food and things to sell and the father sent his child through the opening. It could have even been a student at the school because they seemed to know where to find the money and other things they stole. Such desperation makes me sad. It had to be an act of desperation to steal from children. So very sad.

  5. I would love to hear how to establish a culture of reading in a future post – I think reading is so important. Thanks for everything you do!

    • Jeff, if you read my post “Part One: The Culture of Reading in Nicaragua, or Not”, it will give you an idea of the trials and tribulations I have encountered for 3 years with my mobile lending library. It has been a long process and I’ve learned the hard way that in a readerless culture, I can’t assume anything. Keep your fingers crossed that this library will be successful. I think I’m finally on the right track and I’ll definitely post updates. Thanks for your support.

  6. I have to laugh at your blog’s name “Rewired and *Retired*”, etc. If that’s retirement, I might just stay in my exhausting job–I don’t think I would survive your idea of retirement!
    Seriously, though, your passion and energy have sewn so many rich seeds there on Ometepe, with neighbors and friends, for the children and, really, the whole community! Your energy and passion are infectious! I hope I will find a way to help once I am “retired” in Nicaragua myself. I wonder if those kids know how lucky they are!

    • You are so funny. 🙂 I think part of my passion stems from my obsessiveness. I am constantly trying to find a new and better way to do everything. Ron gets frustrated with me sometimes because of my Type A personality. He usually knows that when I start a new project, he will be forced to be a part of it, whether he wants to, or not. But, he is so helpful.
      For example, a father just finished making the bookcases for the library, painting, and making narrow screens to fit between the roof and the walls ( so the bugs and dirt won’t get in). His tools were scattered throughout the library. The next day, when I went to work in the library, the police were there. Someone had squeezed through the narrow opening between the wall and the roof, broken the screen, and stole all the tools, 2 computers, food for the children that was stored in the library, and money from a teacher’s desk that the children had collected, one cordoba at a time, for special events. I was so angry!
      I rushed home, made Ron bring his tools to the library, and he fixed the screen and made it impossible for anyone to get into the library from the narrow opening. Then, he changed the lock on the door. Geez! Can you believe that? I donated money to the teachers, so they could buy food for the kids.
      Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do! Retirement is exhausting sometimes. lol

  7. Debbie-
    This is beyond outstanding!!! What a life-changing, and growth impacting resource you have created. Giving each child a book is a wonderful way to begin their personal libraries at home. Perhaps in time a few simple classes for parents would be helpful… model and introduce some strategies for how to read aloud to their children, and if they can’t read… how to listen to the child and ask questions to extend comprehension and joy of reading.
    Best wishes, this is an effort for which you can be proud 🙂
    ❤ Jane

    • Thanks so much, Jane. You know, when we moved to Ometepe Island, I brought two Spanish children’s books with me. The neighborhood kids read them over and over and that was the beginning. The schools are so very poor, and education in Nicaragua is not a priority. Reading for fun is practically nonexistent, and there are no reading materials of any kind in the majority of the homes.
      It has taken me a long time to introduce the children to the joys of reading. I still have a long way to go, but I am so excited about the new library. I want to have a parent and grandparent day, where they can come to the library and either read to the kids or do activities with their children. The illiteracy rate is very high. Maybe this will be a new beginning…at least for one small community. Thanks so much for your kind thoughts and ideas.

      • Debbie, my dear…
        You have found your passion! What’s now a niche will become a groove and finally a channel for good things to flow forth from your efforts. Continue to report on how your literacy support progresses… this is the GOOD news the world needs more of!

  8. I love this Debbie! Wow! Did you set the library up all by yourself? What a wonderful accompishment! Are the books in English or Spanish? Did you buy them all in Nicaragua or have them shipped? The children are lovely!!

    • Hi Nicole. Yes, I set the library up by myself. I had over 1,000 books in Spanish from my lending library (that is now defunct), and I put them in five simple genres and used color-coded dots to label them. I advertized for children’s books in Spanish to be delivered to several hotels on Ometepe Island if tourists were visiting and I was amazed at the books I received.
      The Red Oak Elementary school in the states became a sister school. They donated over 200 children’s books in Spanish and collected $800 for the remodeling of the library space.
      I was hoping to be finished with the library much earlier, but the fathers of the students remodeled the building to save money and I paid the construction bill. They all have other day jobs, so it took a long time for them to finish the remodeling and painting, and building bookcases.
      Then, I researched ways to set up libraries, and found a Peace Corp document that was very helpful. There was no way I was going to attempt using the Dewey Decimal system to categorize the books. The simpler the better.
      This is my first project library and once the new school year starts next month, I’ll be able to experiment with hiring a librarian and recruiting volunteers. Hopefully, if all goes well, I’ll start a donation page for more children’s books and look for another sister school for the next library. I am so excited. I can’t wait until school starts again. Now, the fun begins. I miss working with the kids.

      • Wow this is truly wonderful Debbie! I would love to do something like this someday myself. Keep us posted! I love working with kids too. I try to volunteer at my children’s school as much as possible. 🙂

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