Biblioburro (Donkey Library) Revisited

You may remember a Teacher Feature from the spring that highlighted our kindergarten’s lesson on Luis Soriano and his biblioburro or donkey library.  During the lesson, Maureen Leary, the Kindergarten Spanish teacher, used books, videos, and a trip to a Smithsonian Library to encourage the children to think about the importance of libraries, and to learn more about a very unique library in Colombia – Luis Soriano’s biblioburro.  At the end of the lesson, Maureen wrote down the children’s questions for Mr. Soriano and asked if they wanted to help support his library.  They all agreed that they would like to help in some way, and they were busy with these efforts until the end of the school year.

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Photo used with permission from Luis Soriano.

To help, the class decided to create a book of their own that could be a contribution to the library.  They had just finished a unit learning about the ocean, so creating a bilingual alphabet book about ocean creatures seemed to be a logical fit.  Each child took a few letters of the alphabet and thought of an ocean creature that started with those letters in Spanish.

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The class took photos in the National Museum of Natural History’s Sant Ocean Hall with their favorite ocean creatures.  With the guidance of SEEC’s Art teacher, they also created artwork for each creature, which was incorporated into the book. They worked individually with Maureen to look up information about their animals and chose one or two interesting facts to include in the book. All the text was done in both English and Spanish.

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The class used Shutterfly to compile the artwork and photos, and to produce their book.  They each got a copy to keep for themselves, and they sent a book to Mr. Soriano so that he could have a copy in his biblioburro.

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Maureen communicated with Luis Soriano throughout the project and was able to share their conversations with the children. The students had a lot of questions for Mr. Soriano, which he was happy to answer. Some of the things they learned about him and his work were that his grandmother taught him to read and instilled in him a love of books; he delivers books on Wednesdays and Saturdays; the kids in the villages can borrow five books at a time for up to one month; and he uses a small portable computer to keep track of all his books.

1After learning so much about Mr. Soriano and his work, the children were eager to raise funds for his library renovation so they held a bake sale.  The day of the bake sale was filled with excitement! The students all brought in baked goods and took turns running the bake sale in our conference room.  The children were proud to share their treats with parents, teachers, and museum staff, while taking donations to send to the biblioburro.  They enjoyed counting the money, and sending it off to Mr. Soriano. Every last treat was sold and the class raised almost $500 to support Mr. Soriano’s library!

3Through this extension of the original biblioburro lesson, the kindergartners worked hard in the service of someone else and gained a sense of accomplishment when they finished the projects.  They gained a new appreciation for community service and helping others.  Their world view expanded as they explored something familiar (libraries) with the unfamiliar (donkey libraries).  Important skills were also built upon; for example, their Spanish vocabulary grew as they researched the names of their favorite ocean creatures; their math skills were expanded through counting the donations from their bake sale; their fine motor skills and creativity were developed through their artwork for the book. It was truly an interdisciplinary project that all of the students felt ownership in and one that allowed them to make a positive difference in other children’s lives.