Retired teachers make books more accessible with a library-on-wheels

For children, developing an early interest in reading can be critical to their overall success in school and beyond. But in marginalized communities, the problem is often access families that can’t afford to buy books, living in communities with few public resources.

That’s exactly the scenario a couple of retired schoolteachers in Mexico are looking to disrupt – through a library-on-wheels. CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock has their story.

As a teacher in Mexico’s rural Guerrero State, Jose Hernandez always stressed the importance of reading.

“Mexico as a whole has very low rates of literacy, and as primary school teachers for 33 years, we had seen this problem first hand. And once we retired, we weren’t going to sit around doing nothing, so we decided to turn to social work to tackle the problem,” Hernandez said.

He tackled it, along with his wife Carmen, also a retired school teacher — by turning a broken-down VW campervan into a rolling library… and driving it to some of southern Mexico’s most remote communities, among the worst-hit by drug-related violence.

The security situation early this year was so bad – that 43 Guerrero State schools didn’t reopen for weeks following the winter holidays. Amid this danger, many students must walk long distances and attendance levels are low.

For Jose, taking books directly to the students is more important than ever.

“Mexico has a lot of poverty and towns where even basic services are lacking. So we said that’s where we would go to work,” Hernandez said.

Jose depends on donors from across Mexico, such as Ligia Tavera, a social sciences professor in Mexico City, who sent two boxes of books through CGTN’s reporting team.

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“For rural children I believe it’s more important in terms of exposition to the world, in terms of imagining other realities and other possibilities,” Tavera said. “Because their world is very inward-looking, so I believe reading is going to do a lot of good there.”

It’s a project Jose and Carmen have committed themselves to for the next six years.

“Our mission is to take our Bibliocombi to the remotest parts of the country, to do our part to work towards a more productive and better-educated society,” Hernandez said.

As Jose’s rolling library travels deeper into Mexico, he’s hoping to give rural communities a brighter future through education exposing them to the wider world through the window of literature.