Oaxaca state is located in southern Mexico and borders on the Pacific coast and Mexican states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Puebla and Veracruz. About two‐thirds of the state is mountainous.
The average daily salary of an adult in Oaxaca is about US$5 a day and remittances from family members who have migrated to the US or other parts of Mexico is the third-largest source of income in the state. Without outside assistance, many communities in Oaxaca simply could not support a library.
Oaxaca is culturally rich, home to 16 ethnic groups and languages (with numerous subdivisions). About half the population is considered "indigenous" (compared to 13% of Mexico as a whole); many children speak an indigenous language at home and Spanish at school. Although Libros para Pueblos tries to locate books in indigenous languages, few of these are published. All the books in our libraries are in Spanish along with some bilingual books (Spanish - Indigenous, Spanish - English).
Access to books
Oaxaca is one of the three poorest states in the country and has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in Mexico. Mexican adults read an average of fewer than two books per person a year (UNESCO 2005), while the average in countries like the United States is 12 books per year.
Reading promotes academic achievement and is the basis of learning. But due to the high cost of books in Mexico and the low investment in public libraries, access to books in Oaxaca it is limited. In Oaxaca, there are only 466 public libraries to meet 2,563 communities. The number is reduced when considering libraries that lack space dedicated for children and young readers. In the 2013 international PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment), Mexico ranked in the bottom of the list of OECD countries in reading, mathematics and science.
Most students in Oaxaca have access only to required textbooks; few schools have the funds to buy books to engage young readers; and many families cannot afford to buy books, either. Finally, most libraries do not allow patrons to remove the books--they must read them in the library. These factors have limited the development of a culture of reading.
The cornerstone of our approach is to promote access to books as a pathway to the joy of reading. In Libros para Pueblos libraries, then, children are encouraged to take books home—something they find thrilling. By nurturing a love of books, and providing an engaging environment in which to read, we hope to improve the reading skills and educational achievement of the children of Oaxaca.