Too many Mexican youth don’t read. We’re doing something about it.
By Masus Larrey
A Literate Country That Isn’t Reading
At Worldreader, we spend a lot of time puzzling over how to get more people reading. It might seem that by tackling illiteracy, we’re solving the problem, but that’s just the beginning. Mexico has a relatively high literacy rate of 94.4 percent. Yet, here’s the sobering news: most young Mexicans are not reading books. In a 2013 survey by UNESCO that looked at the reading habits of 108 countries, Mexico ranked 107. Clearly, there is an important distinction to be made between knowing how to read and actually reading. So the more pertinent question is: how can we help a literate person that isn’t reading become an avid reader?
IBBY Mexico has been working on this issue in Mexico for years, through projects ranging from building reading corners in rural areas to training and equipping reading promoters with the know-how to spread awareness about the importance of reading. But there is still work to be done. Based on our experience fostering reading cultures in other parts of the world, we thought we could help.
Changing Negative Attitudes Towards Reading
When we look at why people aren’t reading in Mexico, more report that it’s for lack of interest than because they don’t know how. So how do we change someone’s preconceptions around reading? In partnership with Worldreader, UNESCO released a report titled “Reading in the Mobile Era” which found that reading on a mobile phone can transform negative attitudes towards reading. Of the respondents who said they disliked reading, 62 percent reported that they liked reading more once they had read from Worldreader’s digital library on their mobile phone and 1 in 5 became frequent users of the Worldreader app. As smartphone usage in Mexico is projected to reach 50 million users by 2018 and with the bulk of users expected to be youth, mobile phones increasingly present innovative and exciting new opportunities to get more people reading.
We’re Launching AvanzaLee to Reach Mexican Youth with Digital Books
To harness this opportunity, we’re launching avanzaLee, Worldreader’s first project aimed at using digital technology to strengthen a culture of reading in Latin America. Here’s how we’re doing it: IBBY México has an existing network of reading promoters that reach thousands of youth across Mexico with books to encourage them to read. We’ll be training these reading promoters on how to integrate our Worldreader app into their outreach efforts. Promoters will be taught how to access and navigate the app so that they can introduce nascent readers to Worldreader’s digital library on their mobile phones. Through this partnership and thanks to the generous support of Promotora Social México, our aim is to reach 10,000 people in the first year of launch. What’s more, as part of the pilot, we’ll be adding 30 high-quality digital books in Spanish to our library to further contribute towards engaging readers.
Another advantage of mobile technology is our ability to learn from the data generated by our readers. With these insights, we’ll be able to develop best practices in promoting and monitoring mobile reading projects that can be shared with other literacy organizations.
avanzaLee is just the beginning. With the results of this pilot, we plan on expanding our reach and depth by piloting similar projects in other Latin American countries and by targeting people of all ages and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. We’ve seen it happen over and over again: when people have the right tools and the right books in their hands, they can be transformed into avid readers.
We love working with individuals, institutions and corporations who share our passion for books, literacy, technology, and innovation. If you’re interested in getting involved with this project, please contact me, Masus Larrey, to get the conversation started.