Laura Sprinkle is an alumna of SIT Study Abroad’s Bolivia program, and a current Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow.
I returned to Bolivia in July of this year to work with Kids’ Books Bolivia, an organization founded by SIT Study Abroad Bolivia director Heidi-Baer Postigo. Kids’ Books Bolivia is a program by which SIT Study Abroad students can write a children’s book for their independent study project (ISP). There are twenty published books to date, all of which are bilingual in English and Spanish, and many of which are trilingual in an indigenous language. All reflect thoughtful research about a topic related to Bolivian culture. As a student on the program, I wrote a book for my ISP called, Remembering my Grandpa, about All Saints’ Day in Bolivia.
Due to our combined passion for the program, Heidi and I have widely expanded the original goal of “promoting books,” and now I find myself working constantly with new projects as well! I still devote four afternoons a week to working directly with kids at two different children’s libraries, each week choosing a different book from the series to read to each group, and then doing activities related to the book. For example, one week we read The Biggest Laugh in the World, by Mikaela Lefrak, which is about a boy who visits a nursing home. Afterward, we had a discussion about the care of the elderly. Then, the students each chose to write a letter to a grandparent, a short story about the funniest thing that ever happened to them, or a summary of the story. Each week I am amazed at how enthusiastic the kids continue to be about the books!
In addition to working with children, I have been very pleased to be able to connect Kids’ Books Bolivia with other local children’s organizations. One of these groups is the puppet theater collective Katari, which is incorporating the books and stories written by SIT Study Abroad students into their repertoire. After each performance involving the stories, a set of the books is donated to the hosting school.
In collaboration with Katari, we are offering workshops where members of the collective will teach a course on how to read and animate children’s books. The courses completed thus far have been offered to teachers and professionals in libraries, schools, and pre-schools, as well as to students, volunteers, and members of organizations working with kids. We have completed three full sessions to date, with members of Risas y Sueños, a pre-school, the Atillka Library Community Network, Kusicuna, an elementary school, and Agrecol, an organization working with sustainable agriculture here in Bolivia.
We are working on so many fun projects that I could go on and on, but one more that I would like to share is the development of a “teachers’ kit” to go along with the series. In this kit, there will be ideas for activities and lesson plans for the series as a whole, as well as each individual book. It will be designed as a resource for teachers, so that they can utilize the books more profoundly within the classroom. Eventually, we would also like to expand this to include plans for language learning, as all of the books are bilingual and many are trilingual.