Belmopan youth plan 2nd giant book festival to give away over 3,700 fun books to children and teens
Monday, August 5th, 2019
The members of the Belmopan Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (BYSEP) are at it again with their continued goal to encourage a love for reading in Belizean children and teens. They call their project “Tek Time fi Read” and on August 17th (9am-3pm) they are planning their 2nd giant book festival at the Belmopan Civic Center. The festival will feature exciting free reading related games that the participants can play to win points. The points can then be used to “purchase” some of the thousands of books that will be on display. All children will go home with some free fun new books. There will also be a children’s book exchange, teacher’s resources, special books for sale, and lots of fun activities. The approach that the youth are taking is that if children have fun books, they will start to think that reading is fun. By creating an exciting event where children not only play fun games, but also get to choose from beautiful books, their hope is that the perception that “reading is boring” can diminish.
Since June of last year the youth-led project has brought over 11,000 children’s books into the country, held a giant book festival in Belmopan, renovated the Belmopan library, held a library open day and book fair at the Belmopan library, held a book festival in the village of Seine Bight, and distributed thousands of books to families, schools, libraries, and other programs. The Aug 17th event will be another opportunity to put thousands of books into the homes of Belizean families. In November the BYSEP youth won the National Youth Award’s “Volunteerism” award for this and other project they do.
There is no doubt that there is a connection between early reading and later success with comprehension, language development, creativity, and academics. Reading fiction also gives children in tough situations a chance to escape. When the BYSEP youth consulted about how to encourage young people to read more, they realized that there is limited access to selections of affordable and fun books. As a result, for many children the only books they see are their school books. Because of this, reading can be seen as boring and not something to do in their free time. The youth decided that they needed to find a way to get fun books into young people’s homes and created the various events to make that happen.
The books come from the US from organizations such as Elizabeth’s Books Across Borders and a sister Youth Group in Virginia, US. They have also received books from scouts, families, Baha’i communities, churches, research groups and resorts such as Caves Branch and the Belize Jungle Dome. Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jungle Lodge has generously agreed once again to the be the financial sponsor of the event.
Over thirty youth volunteers ages 11-24 are preparing for and running the book festival.
The youth that are creating and organizing the project are part of the Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program. This is a worldwide, inter-faith, Baha’i-inspired program designed to help youth ages 11 and up see themselves as agents of change in their communities and become service-oriented leaders. The program includes study, sports, arts, prayer, music and community service. The program is facilitated by youth leaders (called “animators”), who are often young women and men who have graduated from the program. In the past the youth have taken on projects such as renovating the children’s ward at the Western Regional Hospital, post hurricane clean-up, food drives, and awareness videos about teen suicide and bullying.
Children and teens from age 0-18 are invited to come out on August 17th at the Belmopan Civic Center from 9-3pm. There are prizes for coming in a book character costume and children can bring gently used books to exchange. Details about the event can be found at https://www.facebook.com/BelizeReads.
For more information, contact Heitha Beane at 632-5477 or [email protected]
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