February 19, 2024

It is 12 in the morning, recess time at the Andalucía public school in Seville. Many of the students go out into the yard, but not all of them choose to play. A group approaches a large tree with a platform where a supermarket cart full of books awaits them. Those who know how to read sit in the shade and those who do not learn with the help of the teachers. There are also kids who choose not to go outside and go to the center’s library to read in the fresh air or choose the stories they will take home for the summer. No one knows it, but they are all fulfilling “dreams” – having a larger library, with many books, being able to read outdoors – that other students before them raised in school assemblies and that thanks to the passion of their teachers It has become a reality, a reality recognized because its project to promote reading has received the National Prize for the Promotion of Reading this week.

And it is that Andalucía revolves around its library, or, rather, it is a library surrounded by classrooms, whose students are nourished for the teaching of the 15,000 books that they have managed to gather since they opened it in 2006. An initiative that charges greater significance when the school is located on the map. The center is in the heart of the Tres Mil Viviendas, the neighborhood with the lowest income per capita throughout Spain, where school absenteeism affects 70% of students, according to 2021 data offered by the Polígono Sur Education Coordinator, and where its neighbors, a priori, they have other primary needs to cover before reading as enjoyment. “Obviously, we had a much lower starting point than in another social context, but the library has clearly served as a tool for that change and transformation. The children take the books home and are normalizing the habit of reading among their families. The library is a door that opens many others to other universes, to other contexts, and that is the uniqueness of this center, the firm commitment to the library as the center of life and of everything that happens here”, says its director, Angela Molina.

The children take the books home and are normalizing the habit of reading among their families

The library is the place where students go to develop the didactic units they teach in their classes, because they do not work with textbooks, to the point that on their shelves you can consult the material that the students themselves have gone to. doing to work those subjects. There they hold literary gatherings where they analyze and talk about the books by classic authors that they themselves select —from the Odysseyuntil the Tales of Oscar Wilde, going through Lazarillo or Don Quixote―; reading sessions are organized there around the values ​​that the center wants to promote, in which an adult reads a story and the rest of the students -also three-year-olds- write and express what has aroused them and then translate it through of murals (this month has been dedicated to the LGTBIQ+ theme); and there they meet and ask the writers of the books they have read during the course and who visit them every month. “The one I liked the most is Antonio. I really like his stories, ”says eight-year-old Cristian about Antonio Rodríguez Almodóvar, one of the authors who has spoken with them.

Beside him, Remedios, also eight years old, has just asked the librarian, Natalia Arjona, to give her a loan for the summer. indie’s world. “I have not read any of this collection,” she admits. He does not remember how many titles he has been able to read throughout the course, but there are many: “I come every Friday and Wednesday morning and at school time and then I read and I also take two or three or four home,” he says. , while at his side Juan, 13, whispers that the last one “was chubby.”

The tree of books, in the courtyard of the Andalucía school, in Seville, where the kids can read at recess.
The tree of books, in the courtyard of the Andalucía school, in Seville, where the kids can read at recess. Alejandro Ruesga

The library is called Fantasy —the name the students gave it— and it has a password to enter —also chosen by the children—: “Fantasy Library, stories, stories and joy”. “This is what the library means to them, a place where there are stories, stories are told and there is joy”, explains Inma Mayorga, head of studies and member of the library commission. The teacher proudly shows all the activities carried out by the students and that have her bookstore as their epicenter. Before entering, the covers of the school magazine are framed, Nevipens Andalusia ―“it is called that way because Nevipens in Caló means news and the majority of our students are gypsy ethnic group”, he says―; past the threshold is the Rincón Violeta, a corner with feminist books; and on the walls there is an exhibition of the works of the last of the three literary contests that they organize every year. The library is divided into the same sections as any other and the kids are also taught that distribution.

The teachers have also known how to get the reading bug, or at least the value of the books, to the parents of their students. “First thing in the morning it is always the three-year-olds who have to start in the library. At that age, all the parents accompany them to school, so they go in with them, they see them enjoy themselves and they become familiar with the library, to the point that they also end up asking for books to read at home with the children”, explains the director. Many mothers also volunteer to catalog the books.

Students in the courtyard of the Andalucía school, in Seville.
Students in the courtyard of the Andalucía school, in Seville.Alejandro Ruesga

The library began operating in 2006 and in honor of its name, Fantasy, it has consolidated spinning dreams. “We were at the top of the school and soon the place became too small for us”, says her director. “We are a learning community and we carry out several phases with families, which are a pillar for us. One of those phases is that of the dream, where each one writes his own. One day one came out in which it was pointed out that her dream was to have a bigger library, with more books, on the ground floor and open to the neighborhood, ”she continues.

That dream came true in the midst of a pandemic, after negotiating with the Seville City Council for permits to turn what was the former home of the janitor into a library with direct access to the street. “We were going to have inaugurated it on March 20, 2020,” says the director with a certain sarcasm. Now the consistory has been offered to organize a workshop to encourage reading. “The reality is that the children of our school sign up here, but anyone could sign up. That is the other part of the dream that remains to be fulfilled and that I believe that with the economic endowment of the prize (30,000 euros) we will be able to complete. Because the library is already bigger, it’s on the ground floor, but it’s only partially open to the public,” says Molina.

The tree of books is also another dream of a student, who dreamed of being able to read at recess, thus combining reading with leisure. And that desire shows the essence of this project: to turn books and reading them into a pleasure and your library into a space for enjoyment.

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