How Reading Helps a Community


“We read to know we’re not alone.”
― William Nicholson, Shadowlands

I had many photos to accompany this post, but I received a call this morning telling me that it is against Nicaraguan law to post pictures of Nicaraguan police in uniform. I had no idea! So, I deleted my Facebook post with the pictures of the police reading to the students and I deleted the photos on my blog post to respect the privacy of the officers and the Nicaraguan law.

Our tiny police force on Ometepe Island consists of 14 police officers in Moyogalpa. They receive a pittance of pay and often work long hours without money for office supplies, gas for their vehicles, etc.

When they helped me recover my phone which was stolen from my house by my 15 yr. old friend, I repaid their kindness with a bag of office supplies for their bare bones office.
The other day my police buddy called me to ask if he could come to my house to talk. He mentioned the word “molestar” and I feared we were in trouble. Instead, when he arrived, he introduced me to the new officer and asked if I could give him a notebook and a pen.

I sighed a big sigh of relief because I realized he simply said on the phone that he didn’t want to bother me. “No quiero a molestar.”

I had him make a list of office supplies the police force needed…a very simple list with notebooks, pens, a scissors, and stapler. Then I purchased the supplies and took them to the office. I also went to the gas station and bought a voucher for gasoline for their vehicles.

The officers were very appreciative and asked in return what they could do for me. I asked if they could come to my elementary school library and read the children a story. I think it is important for the police to be role models for their community and I can think of no better way for them to help me develop a culture of reading than to start at the elementary level.

Yesterday, they picked me up in their police truck, and we went to the La Paloma Elementary School to read to the preschoolers. I had to laugh as I rode in the police truck because the neighbors were all freaking out! I know I created quite a stir!

They chose books to read to the class. Jorge ( not real name) chose a book about birds, while the other officer practiced reading Clifford the Big Red Dog. I could tell they were nervous, but I told them the preschoolers don’t care and they will enjoy your attention, even if you only talk to them.

Jorge is a natural teacher! He asked the children questions about the birds and interacted with the children with humor and understanding.

At one point, the children broke out in a song about colors and birds and entertained Jorge!

After Jorge finished reading to the preschool class, it was time for their lunch. The other officer didn’t have a chance to read to the class, and I think he was disappointed. So, Jorge asked me if he could return the next week to read another story to the class.

As they were getting into the police truck, Jorge said, “Deborah, we can read to other schools, too. We could go to Esquipulas, Moyogalpa, and Los Angeles to read.”

I was overwhelmed with their generosity and compassion. What started as a simple gift to me in return for office supplies, has the potential to become so much more! They are a bridge to establishing mutual understanding among community members. They are the connection to developing a culture of reading. And most importantly, they are the bridge to peaceful understanding in our troubled world.

I am proud to call them my friends! They demonstrated to the children that “we read to know that we are not alone.” And this is only the beginning of the story!

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17 thoughts on “How Reading Helps a Community

  1. What a great idea, Debbie and this sounds like one of those projects that snowballs in unexpected ways. So many times we never really realize what an impact we can have on others with small gestures (like your seeing the need for office supplies for your small police force) leading to the police officers interacting with the kids. It makes the community – your community – stronger all the way around! Anita

  2. Wow, what a great happening for the police, the children, and you. Great example for us. all. I think police in USA do not care to have their photos posted either so it is not unusual.

    • Anne-Marie, I felt so bad when the police called me and asked me to kindly remove their photos. In fact, I was in the middle of writing this post when they called. I hated that I had to erase all the photos. They are so darn cute. The officer sat in a little preschool chair….so adorable.

  3. Hello. This is Lisa Valencia. I’ve lived in Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica’s south Caribbean coast for ten years. Thanks so much for this story. It really touched me because I love to read.

    I’ve been reading all my life. And so do my grown children, who were read to practically from birth. It saddens me that my Nicaraguan husband does not like to read. I understand that his mother, raising a family of 8 kids alone – doing physical labor in the banana and coffee plantations – did not read to her kids. And when I went to San Marcos to meet her and the rest of the family I was disheartened to see that life revolved around the television and junk food. The family was tremendously nice and kind to me. They were all very polite and I loved them. Yet on this trip I learned the importance of education by seeing the effects of the lack of it.

    Your creative use of the situation with the police to involve them and set the example for the children was brilliant! And I bet you never even thought of it that way. If probably just seemed like the natural thing to do. Bless you, Deborah!

    • Lisa, thank you so much for your kind comments. No, the whole event kind of snowballed and I just went along with the ride. lol I am so excited to see a spark of interest in our new reading with the police program with the children and I will encourage it to grow. Developing a culture of reading is a slow process, but starting with the little ones will help to plant the seed in future generations.

  4. I’ve been reading your post for a while and enjoy them very much. Bravo the officers reading to the children is wonderful. We can’t wait to come and see if this will be our home too. I read to little ones when I was in school loved it and hope to do more.

    Leigh

    • Leigh, well you are always welcome to come to my library and read to the children anytime you want! 🙂 Oh how I wish I could have included the photos! They really made this post. But, I don’t want to get on the wrong side of my new police friends or cause them any trouble.

      • It would be my pleasure. Being from a family with a lot of now retired officers I completely understand. But would have been nice to see. Maybe we can contribute to the library and the officers by bringing some things down I know are probably cheaper here. Just let me know more than happy too.

  5. Fantastic post and it was a great idea to ask the police to read to the children. How fun! Many years ago (as a police officer) I started a bicycle safety program in Craig, Colorado and went to all of the elementary schools in the city with a donated bike we set up with all kinds of safety features. It was a great community outreach opportunity for our department and led to lasting relationships with the kids and teachers. Keep up the good work!

    • John, another fantastic idea! Most of the kids have bicycles here, but without any understanding of bicycle safety. I wanted to buy them bells for their bicycles because when I am walking, I never see them coming behind me. You always inspire me with new ideas. Thanks!

  6. Debbie,

    Thank you for all you do in Ometepe. You are a kind soul. My Debbie and I are planning a trip in October to Punta Piñuela, and really hope you and Ron will be there to spend some time together. Sorry I missed you when you came to LA. Your post with the flag gave me hope, and sadness to be going through the turn of events here.

    Thank you for all you do in the community!

    • Hola Ernesto! How I miss you and can’t wait to meet your lovely Debbie. We may be here in October, but we are trying to travel more…heading to Cuba, Mexico, and the states for 2 1/2 months soon.
      Oh, Ernesto, I am grieving for my country. The hatred and division are beyond my imagination. I wish I could be a bridge to try to connect the divide, but I have no idea where to start. Sending hugs from Ometepe.

  7. I enjoy your blog. This posting touched my heart with the wonderful connections you made with the police and the school. I love the exuberant enthusiasm of the children wanting to learn. It is always excitng when they learn to read. I love what you are doing there. How can we help?

    • Karen thank you so much for asking how you can help. I was hoping to start a friends of police program in our area to help the police. But, I have to be very careful how I approach it because I don’t think the government would take kindly to me collecting money for the police. It would be an embarrassment to the government. So, instead, I think I am going to work with a local hotel to have a trivia night or a game night and donations can be made to support the police with supplies.
      For my library, I’ve never used a crowdfunding website to help me with funds. I have a large network of teachers and friends who have supplied me with many books and other things for the library. Next, I would like to work on a way to have all the students’ eyes tested and look for a source of donations for eyeglasses. I may start a GoFundMe page for the eyeglasses, which we can purchase here once I have the eye doc come to the school to test all the children.
      We have about 100 children enrolled in our little elementary school and none of them wear glasses. I am sure they have never been tested, and can’t afford to buy glasses. I will let everyone know when I get the program set up.

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