Imagine for a moment that you’re a small child with a love of books. We may be biased, but we think that makes you pretty much “a small child,” period, because we believe that all children love books! Anyway, imagine we bring you, a small child, into a vast library filled with hundreds or even thousands of brightly colored books.
The colors! The pictures! The beautiful words!
You’ve heard about books. Someone has told you of the worlds these books will open up to you, so you head for the closest shelf and pluck off a promising title with an intriguing cover image of a baby cradling a giant grasshopper. What a mysterious image! How exciting!
You’ve learned a little reading, so you struggle through the title:
Hmmm. That’s odd. Someone seems to have scrambled up the letters. You’re still intrigued, though, so you turn a page and then another, trying to make sense of the story. But all the way through the entire book, the letters are scrambled in just the same way. The pictures are great, but even though you’re a fairly quick learner, nothing in this book makes any sense.
This is exactly the situation facing millions of minority language speaking children across the world today. They’re intelligent and eager to learn, just like your smaller, younger self. They crave stories, just like you do. But for them, the vast majority of the knowledge and wonder available through books is inaccessible. For these children, the experience of the world’s literature is just like your experience when encountering Jun lol ketz’anruk’ le ne’, which is written in the K’iche’ language of Guatemala. You want to know and experience more, but you can’t.
Now, we know that if a child who speaks K’iche’ wants to someday read Shakespeare’s Hamlet, they’re likely going to have to learn English. If they wish to read the Gabriel García Márquez novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, they’re probably going to have to learn Spanish. But when you’ve spent the first years of your life using only the K’iche’ language, the leap to English or Spanish can be a herculean one (although you may need to learn Greek to find out where the word “herculean” comes from).
There’s hope, though!
Studies have shown that learning to read and write in one’s first language provides a bridge that makes it much easier for children to become multilingual—to cross over into a vast world of literature. For that to happen, though, there need to be books in K’iche’. Not just K’iche’, but Lingala and Sakalava, too—in thousands of beautiful minority languages, all over the world!
That’s why we’re excited to share that there are already, at the time of this writing, fifty five books in the Guatemala Bloom Library. There are books in K’iche’ and books in Spanish and books in Mam.
So many books! So many bridges to other worlds!
Who knows, maybe the next Shakespeare or Márquez is even today flipping through the pages of Jun lol ketz’anruk’ le ne’, his or her little mind beginning to come alive with a distinctly K’iche’ story all his or her own. For now, we invite you to explore the library and imagine with us the possibilities.