The public library in Yeyri’s community in Honduras used to be a lively and bustling center before the pandemic. Children would spend hours here searching the shelves for their next favorite book or playing games with their friends. But now, the library stands empty. Children are stuck at home, unsure when they’ll have the chance to return to this once familiar and happy space.
For children in the community, like Yeyri, reading is one of the ways they pass the time while in lockdown. Since schools are closed and remote learning is impossible for villages without internet connections, Yeyri relies on books to help her keep up with her studies.
“I love to read because I learn so much from books. Reading improves my spelling and teaches me how to use punctuation,” Yeyri says. “Reading is nice — it helps me imagine a better future.”
Thankfully, the staff who work at the library have found a way for children to continue borrowing books, safely. Every two weeks, the library allows children, one at a time, to go in and pick out two books each. All of the books are sanitized before and after they’re borrowed, and children can only touch the ones they want to take with them.
“We read them to our little brothers and sisters, to our cousins and to everyone in our family,” Yeyri says. “I read to my mother and father, or I tell them about what I’ve learned. They can’t read, but I’m getting them interested in learning to read with the books I bring home.”
This attitude comes naturally to Yeyri, who hopes to become a doctor or teacher when she’s older. She believes that she has a bright future ahead of her and knows that the first step toward her dreams is finishing school. The library is helping her do just that.
But not all of the girls and boys in nearby villages know that they can borrow books, so many children have had to stop their learning altogether. A group of library staff go up to these communities to bring books for children to borrow. Some of the children, however, have limited free time away from helping their parents and can no longer continue their studies.
Girls are especially vulnerable to ending their education prematurely. Pressure to take on household responsibilities as their daily work leaves no time for studying. This only gets worse when schools close — girls are less likely to ever go back, even if they reopen.
For Yeyri, she’s grateful that her parents understand the importance of an education for their daughter, so everyone in the household takes on chores during the day.
“We all help: my brother Johnny makes his bed, cleans his room, sweeps the patio and washes the dishes,” she says. “My mother says that men and boys should help with the housework, and I agree.”
While Yeyri constantly worries about her parents and those in her community getting sick, she’s happy that the library is able to help in its own way. The impact of reading has helped her and her family grow closer and face all of the uncertainty created by the pandemic.
Unfortunately, not all families are coping like Yeyri’s. Around the world, many are struggling to adapt to all of the changes in their lives. Protecting themselves and each other from COVID-19 has cost parents their jobs, and children their education. For some girls, this pandemic sets them back at school to the point where they may never return.
You can give them the support they need. Girls might not be in school right now, but you can help get them the tools they need to continue learning at home so they don’t fall behind. You can help provide families with supplies to protect themselves from the virus if they have to leave their homes. Your support gives them hope that they’ll make it through this devastating time.