Books and balloons for children at reading bonanza

Excited children read tales of fairies, talking apple trees and ugly ducklings as they crowded into the playground of a bustling school in the poor ex-mining community of Mineros San Juan on November 6.
Around 450 pupils aged between 6 and 9 took part in the annual reading festival that Proyecto Horizonte organises at René Barrientos Ortuño School nestled in the Andes mountain range on the outskirts of Cochabamba.
The children read their hand-written stories out loud to teachers, older students or parents and happily showed off the colourful pictures they had drawn to illustrate their imaginative tales. And they were delighted with the rewards they received – bright yellow balloons and books such as Peter Pan, The Three Little Pigs and Pinocchio that were provided by SKIB, a Dutch foundation that seeks to improve the education of children in Bolivia.
Adolfo Mayani Riquez, Director of René Barrientos Ortuño School, said the festival, which has now been running for eight years, had played a key role in boosting many of the pupils’ skills.”The vast majority of students here have problems with reading, writing and comprehension – they don’t understand what they write but they have made progress by participating in this project because they have enjoyed it,” he said.
For Adriana, a 7-year-old girl who wrote a story about a family of nine in which the father builds a house while the mother stays at home to do the washing, the festival certainly seems to have paid off.
“I like reading,” she said, smiling.
And parents say the event has made a real difference to their children too.
“It’s good because it helps the children to learn more. My daughter’s reading and writing skills have improved thanks to this project,” said Teodora Choque Ayala, one of the proud mothers who came to listen to their children read.