IBBY Children in Crisis: El Salvador Library

IBBY helps to establish the Library of Dreams, La biblioteca de los sueños, in El Salvador

“I want to share with you my dream to build a children’s library in El Salvador, specifically in the San Jacinto neighborhood of San Salvador. I already have 
the the land but need to build the structure that will serve more than 2,000 children that live in the area. These children come from humble families most of them have never had access to good quality books. Unfortunately, the children in this area are an easy target for gangs.With the assistance of local librarians, teachers and cultural workers, the library will provide these children with creative reading and writing activities. Local and international poets, writers and artists will also promote creative writing, art and music workshops.

The space is surrounded by tropical trees and will also serve as a literary cultural space where children and adults can enjoy books, garden and relax. The library is located in an area overlooking the magnificent San Salvador volcano and right in front of the amazing San Jacinto Hill. Children and their families will be able to walk there and enjoy a safe learning environment. I am absolutely positive that through reading, Salvadoran children can dream and make healthy positive choices for their future.”

Jorge Argueta, Founder of Library of Dreams, La biblioteca de los sueños

El Salvador is the “peace-time” country with the highest per capita homicide rate in the world. Gangs are essentially determining the fate of children, which is why so many have elected to leave. Salvadoran children and young people need spaces to develop skills and actions aimed at creating a climate of security and development opportunities for them. Every day children and young people are exposed to violence; so that initiatives to create spaces for recreation or skill development are important and a priority.

The Library of Dreams is created in one of the neighborhoods where people live immersed in a climate of insecurity. We know that through reading, Salvadoran children can dream and make healthy positive choices for their future. The Library creates a space where children of El Salvador may develop an approach to literature, art and nature through reading and the experience of a harmonious encounter with nature such that through them they can arrive at a more dignified and just coexistence and to be empowered to create real change in their lives.

In addition, the idea is to tie the Manyula International Children’s Poetry Festival and the library together in a way to better serve this festival and the Salvadoran children of this community.  This can lead to the possibility of builds a National Section of IBBY, thus connecting El Salvador to the worldwide IBBY network. 

In July 2016, IBBY approved a donation through the IBBY Foundation to support the building and equipping of the library as well as covering the operational costs for one year. We shall continue to support the library and welcome all donations to this special project. 

In 2019 and 2020, the Library of Dreams was supported by the IBBY-Yamada Fund for its reading programme Reading is Marvellous / Leer es Maravillosa  The aim of the programme is to develop children’s skills and habits of reading and to improve their communication skills.

The children used to visit the library through the schools, but at the start of the pandemic the schools had to close their doors, making it impossible for them to visit the library on their own because of the violence that is ever-present on the streets. As the activities of the library had to stop, the only way of reaching the children was to set up a system of delivering books directly to the children at their homes. The librarians were able to do that for several months. Meanwhile, a temporary library has been established in the town of Santa Domingo de Guzman, the home of Jorge Argueta, which is open to small groups of children and staffed by young volunteers. This library serves a semi-rural area, which has a predominantly indigenous population. Currently housed in a temporary facility, the programme includes a read-in and lending library, 3x weekly read-aloud and story-telling events for children, reading instruction for children, a safe place for children to go and educator training by working with local schools. Read a presentation about the Library of Dreams and its plans for a more secure future here.

Videos and photos of the Library of Dreams

The video of the opening of the Library of Dreams can be viewed here and a two videos (in Spanish) can be found here and here.  A short video from the new library in Santo Domingo de Guzman, celebrating the Day of the Dead with the children can be seen here.

Photos from the library from 2017 and from activities at San Jacinto Market and in classrooms in 2017 and 2018 can be found here.

Photos from activities during 2020 at the new library in Santo Domingo de Guzman and the motivated volunteers as well as the most recent activities in 2022 can be found here.