A Street Library for every ONE

by Beata Kowalska-Teliuk, ATD Philippines full-time volunteer

Our Street Library is one of our major programs in the Philippines. Not only being our first program (almost 30 years!), it’s also the heart of commitment of our volunteers and community facilitators. Every year, we start with an orientation meeting for new volunteers.  Usually 10 new participants come without any prior knowledge of ATD.  Our long-time volunteers and community facilitators join them to share their Street Library experience.  The usual question asked by new volunteers:  “Why do we conduct a Street Library?”

Our Goal

Our Street Library is not a one-way or even two-way street or platform for education. We liked to see it as a rotunda  (roundabout or circular street) where every ONE (children, volunteers, community members, and friends) can learn and share their knowledge and talents with each other, making it a complete circle of learning.

We wish to bring educational and cultural activities to children and whole community living in disadvantaged areas. Often these children do not have so many opportunities to develop their talents and skills. They have limited access to such activities. At the same time, volunteers and friends learn from the experience of teaching, interacting, listening, and sharing with the children.

For us, it’s important to encourage kids to learn in a creative & fun way, without judging or forcing them to do things.  The community members also play an important role in the Street Library.  Their presence encourages kids to join  as well a way of establishing a long-term relationship with them.

Our Street Library Activities

We do not merely just go to any community and start our Street Library program. It involves several steps.

Preparation.  We consult with the parents and adults of the community the needs of their children.  What kind of books or activities will the children like to read or do?  Afterwards, we invite volunteers and friends who wish to conduct storytelling sessions or related activities, read with the children, give books, prepare the venue, promote the event, and donate financial assistance.

 Reading.  We start the Street Library by reading with the children. We sit together in a banig (floor mats) and read books, individually or in small groups.  Our priority is to reach out to children who have difficulties in reading, shy, alone or withdrawn.  We encourage them to join us by engaging them in a small talk or showing colorful pictures from the book. Our books are chosen regarding the children’s preferences and capacities.

Storytelling We ask a community member, facilitator, or guest storyteller to conduct a storytelling session to the children in a creative and interactive way like singing, acting, drawing, and asking questions.

Creative workshops On some days, we conduct workshops to develop potential and skills of the children.  During these workshops, we seek the assistance from our volunteers and community facilitators to aid the children and to boost their confidence.

Debriefing After each Street Library, we request for feedbacks by our participants (volunteers and community facilitators). We urge them to share both positive and negative observations or areas for improvement for our next Street Library session.  The feedback is also a way to know if any of the children are being left behind or not being noticed.

To share a wonderful experience from Paul, one of our new friends, who attended our Street Library –

“Sometimes children didn’t understand what I was saying because of the language barrier. I think physical presence is very important. Just to let them know that there is somebody who wants to spend time with them, to show them they are not alone.”

If you are interested to join  our Street Library or other activities you can contact us by email: philippines@atd-fourthworld.org or call 563 9312.

Your presence will truly make it a learning experience for every ONE.