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The Zoo Reading Program is a Winner!

The Belize Zoo Education Department, teaming up with Belize-loving Mr. Jim Axelsson from the United States ,  has introduced an exciting and very welcome reading program.   Learning that the literacy rate in Belize was one of the lowest in the region, it was decided that efforts needed to be focused upon this problem.  And so it was, and  in a very fun way, too.

TBZ and Mr. Axelsson agreed that many kids love books about animals and nature.  Using this thought as a theme, the good organization known as Better World Books was approached.  This “back-to-the-book” organization has shipped children’s books to reading-hungry kids all over the world.  Learning about the situation in Belize, which combined a low literacy rate along with little access to affordable children’s literature, Better World Books agreed to help.

And help they did!  To the happy surprise at The Belize Zoo, 3,700 children’s books, all about wildlife, nature and animals, were collected from various and many places in the United States.  Books about butterflies, endangered species, corn, and big cats are just an example of what was in the mountain of books arriving to the zoo recently.  The books will be shared with the National Library Service and with Caves Branch Jungle Lodge, who actively work to foster an interest in kids about the joy of reading.

At this time, zoo educators visit St. Agnes school,  which serves the communities of La Democracia and Mahogany Heights.  They have weekly “read ins”.   After reading a book to the class, the kids are then asked questions about which parts  of a particular story they liked the most, and were there any parts of a  story that they did not like…..These reading strategies create an atmosphere where “paying attention” is very necessary.  But it is also fun!   Other schools have received books, including schools in Bullet Tree Falls, and the Maya village of Maya Centre.  The program is new, but it will grow.  And all involved see the potential for many kids in Belize to include reading a book as a favourite activity.  The Belize Zoo gives a HUGE thank you to Mr. Jim Axelsson and Better World Books for making this positive program happen in our country.



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