GWRC is grateful to the Ashburn, VA Rotary Club and the affiliated Rotary Interact clubs at various Loudoun County high schools (Broad Run, Riverside, Stone Bridge, Briar Woods) for their support of the Ixil Book-Making Project. This endeavor, which was awarded the Pearson/IRA/Rotary Literacy Prize in 2012, is an outgrowth of the Literacy Project that GWRC supports in Guatemala. The goal is to publish 80 books in the home language (Maya Ixil) for emergent readers—one book for each week of kindergarten and first grade. The project is coordinated by Dr. Donna Phillips of Pacific University, Salem, OR, in collaboration with Vine Valley Reading Council (an affiliate of the ILA) and the Salem, OR Rotary Club. The books can be viewed at this link:


Guatemala Project
By Kathy Davin

Join Us In 2017!

Kathy Davin, (Arlington County Public Schools),
with Felipa Lux Batten, librarian at the school
in Sta. Avelina, Guatemala.

Are you looking for a way to combine adventure, travel, and community service next summer? Are you interested in learning about the culture of your Central American students, sharing your expertise, and exploring new and innovative teaching methods along with colleagues from across the U.S and Central America?  Consider joining us for the annual Reading Week of teacher training in Guatemala, sponsored by Helps International and supported by the GWRC. The training will take place in July, 2017*.  Cost to participants will be approximately $1200, inclusive of flights and in-country meals, transportation, and accommodations.  Participation is open to all teachers and graduate level education students. Fluency in Spanish is not required.  Please contact Kathy Davin, Key School, Arlington, VA if you would like more information. (*Specific dates will be posted on this web site in January).


2016 Trip

Group Photo:The 2016 Reading Week Team with Helps
International staff upon arrival in Panajachel, Guatemala.

In July, four teachers from Northern Virginia joined educators from Michigan on a journey to the rural highlands of Guatemala to participate in Reading Week 2016. Pictured at left are:  Kathy Davin (Arlington), Ann Beckman (Falls Church City), Jennifer O'Looney (Prince William County) and Melissa Gallagher (Fairfax County).  The visiting teachers observed classes, coached, team-taught, and participated in afternoon teacher workshops that focused on interactive writing at the primary level and the development of academic vocabulary in a second language thought the grades.

On the return trip to the capital, the team spent a couple of days of well deserved R&R in the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala.


Preparing Morning Message:  At a workshop, local teachers practice writing morning messages with Matilde Arciniegas (Key School, Arlington) . Peer Editing, 6th Grade
Morning Message Activity:  Kindergarteners tallied how many tortillas they had eaten for breakfast that morning.  Text is written in the children's first language, Ixil. Reader's Response, 1st grade:  Students recorded their favorite part of a book they had read.  Text is written in the children's first language, .Ixil.

Book Buddies:  5th graders pair up and read aloud to kindergarteners once a week.


Beginning in 2011, the Greater Washington Reading Council has co-sponsored a literacy project in the rural highlands of Guatemala.  GWRC provides partial funding for the purchase of materials for guided reading instruction.  GWRC members are invited to join a group of educators every July for a week of on-site teacher training in best practices for literacy instruction.  The focus is on first language literacy and vocabulary development in the second language. The US teachers spend the mornings observing and coaching in the classrooms and the afternoons conducting workshops and helping local teachers plan instruction.  Fluency in Spanish is desirable but not required.  The coordinator of the project is Kathy Davin, reading specialist at Key Elementary in Arlington, VA. ( 

 Before the 1996 Peace Accords, students who attended school in the Ixil region of Guatemala were immersed in Spanish from the minute they entered the building.  There was no instruction in the home language.  Few learned to read.  Life in this region was impacted by the Civil War.  Families exist on subsistence agriculture and earn a little cash by pooling together the coffee they grow and selling it through a cooperative.  The outside world is making inroads in this region of Guatemala with the introduction of improved highway access, dam construction, radio, cell phones, etc.  Literacy is essential to the survival and well being of these communities.  Literacy is best introduced in the language of the home.

 The Centro Educativo William Botnan is a Kindergarten - sixth grade primary school located in the village of Santa Avelina, municipality of San Juan Cotzal, department of Quiche, Guatemala.  The language is Ixil, one of 23 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala.  The school was built by and is partially funded by the non-governmental organization HELPS International (  The teachers at the school in Santa Avelina have worked with a team of multi-national educators to establish a program of bilingual literacy.  The goal is to introduce literacy in the home language, Ixil, and transition to literacy in Spanish by the end of sixth grade using a 90/10 model (90% home language instruction/10% Spanish instruction in Pre-Primaria, or kindergarten, transitioning to the reverse by grade six).

HELPS envisons "Hub" schools that successfully implement a well-designed learning program to serve as teacher learning centers and technology resource centers for surrounding schools.  The school in Santa Avelina serves as an educational headquarters for the Ixil Triangle and as a model for expansion of educational initiatives throughout Guatemala.