Sunday, June 23, 2024

Mexico vs US tournament aims to promote more reading in Hispanic communities

To combat low levels of literacy among Hispanic children in the United States and Mexico, one Harvard grad has taken on the challenge of bringing communities closer together through the power of reading.

“Beyond academic development, reading creates emotional connections and fosters positive relationships with other human beings. It is an opportunity to generate empathy and unforgettable memories,” explains Ariadna Trapote, founder and CEO of Little Bookmates and 311 Literacy. Alongside a team of experts, she has created an international bilingual reading tournament for boys and girls that will take place from March 1st to 23rd of this year.

Organizers hope the contest will bring Hispanic communities on both sides of the border closer together. (Jennifer Gates/LightSail/X)

With over 4,000 books available online, the tournament offers access to a wide variety of texts, recording the minutes that children spend reading, thanks to digital platform LightSail. This allows participants to monitor their progress and compete with each other in a fun and educational way. “We believe that if children start reading a lot, they will develop a love for reading and through that, they will be able to learn anything,” Trapote says.

But how does the tournament work? It’s simple: children read books online through the platform, accumulating reading minutes. The challenge lies in seeing which country – Mexico or the United States – accumulates the most reading minutes across the 23 days of the competition.

“We need children to create positive relationships with reading, not just academic ones, so they enjoy reading and can read to learn,” adds Trapote.

Books are categorized according to the reading level, making it easy for participants to find the texts best suited to their abilities. Although schools in the U.S. assign a reading level to each child (called Lexile), there is no such system in Mexico, so participants are placed corresponding to their school grade. The tournament is open to children in both elementary and high school in Mexico and the U.S.

The winning children will also receive new books for their school library. (Becca Tapert/Unsplash)

“It is important to note that registration must be done by the school or teacher, ensuring that participants are real children committed to reading,” says Ariadna. Anyone who wishes to register after the Feb. 20 deadline that appears on the portal will be able to do so by sending an email to organizers through the 311 Literacy platform. Entry to the tournament is free, and organizers hope more than 10,000 children will sign up.

Mexican pupils in Guanajuato, Tlaxcala, México state and Jalisco have already taken up the challenge, with U.S. schoolchildren in Chicago and Philadelphia joining the tournament too.

The contest will culminate in awards ceremonies at the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores in Mexico and at a separate venue in the United States that is yet to be confirmed. Three different prizes will be awarded in both countries: the child who has read the most minutes, the classroom that has read the most minutes (teachers will also be awarded), and the school with the highest reading average.

Individual first-place finishers will receive an Apple MacBook, with the winning teacher scooping a new MacBook of her own as well. For the winning Mexican group, participants will receive tickets to the Six Flags theme park. 

Winning participants will also see their schools awarded new books for their library.

Organizers hope that this competition can greatly bring children closer to reading, in addition to fostering bonds between two countries with a closely shared heritage. 

Camila Sánchez Bolaño is a journalist, feminist, bookseller, lecturer, and cultural promoter and is Editor in Chief of Newsweek en Español magazine.

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