What is a library? Who is a librarian? Today we bring you books and tons of resources about unusual Colombian libraries and the incredible, resourceful librarians who dared to share. In so doing, we turn traditional notions of libraries and librarians on their heads (although we won’t be turning any actual librarians on their heads). By the end you might begin to wonder just what makes libraries so special and you’ll definitely have some new ideas about how a library might be created in your own community.

Shows a free little library with sign that reads "Books Libros." Beautiful purple flowers in front of bookcase library.
What makes a library?

Luis Soriano Bohorquez

DISCLAIMER: This post covering books about unusual Colombian libraries contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you purchase the linked books. We only include resources we have actually read, used, and valued. If you love legalese or need some bedtime reading, you can read our full disclosure here.

Biblioburro

This book centers around Luis Soriano Bohorquez, a man from Colombia who had books, donkeys, and a vision: to get books to kids in rural areas so that they could grow and learn. His investment of time and energy continues to grow to this day, bringing more than just books to areas where there are no libraries, community centers, or major commerce. You can watch more of his story in this short English-language video or the Spanish-language (with subtitles) video below (fantastic for practice in language classrooms).

Learning Standards

Not every state participates in Common Core learning standards, so below is a non-exclusive, generic learning list for Biblioburro:

  • Determine words’ meanings from context, both in English and Spanish
  • Describe what happens in a story
  • Identify the main idea or theme of a story
  • Connect reading to everyday life experiences, especially the library, storytime, and reading
  • Experience outside cultures and/or environments
  • Practice empathy and/or putting oneself in another person’s “shoes”

Teachers Guides, Crafts, and More

Woot to free resources! You can find a free curriculum guide on Simon & Schuster’s website. It may take a second to spot, so look for Resources and Downloads, then click the first link called Jeanette Winter Curriculum Guide. The Biblioburro-specific pages begin on page 7 of the PDF. If you need a printable activity, check out the four-fold activity on page 10.

If you have a free Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s account, you can also find tons and tons of free activities, lesson plans, crafts, and more. Check out a sample search here to see what piques your interest.

Read Alouds

We can’t tell you how happy we are when we find read-aloud videos in both languages. You can find a fun English-language read-aloud here, and a native-speaker, Spanish language read-aloud below.

Waiting for the Biblioburro / Esperando el Biblioburro

Technically, this book is very similar the above book, but what we love about this one is its point-of-view. Waiting for Biblioburro / Esperando el Biblioburro is a bilingual book told from the perspective of a little girl who lives in a rural part of Colombia. She can’t wait for the Biblioburro to come to town to enrich her days.

Reading the Biblioburro story from a kid’s perspective will really help your kid(s) connect to the story and to think through higher-level ideas. For example, “What would I do if I didn’t have any books?” Check out the below read alouds and free resources to get started.

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Waiting for the Biblioburro / Esperando el Biblioburro
by Monica Brown

Learning Standards

Like we mentioned above, not every state uses the same standards, so we’ve outlined some generic learning standards:

  • Explain how it might feel to be in another person’s/character’s place or position
  • Determine words’ meanings from context, both in English and Spanish
  • Experience how words in other languages affect and enrich a story
  • Describe what happens in a story
  • Identify the main idea or theme of a story
  • Connect reading to everyday life experiences, especially the library, storytime, and reading
  • Describe or define difficult concepts/words such as rural, scarcity, and hope

Teacher’s Guide and More

Monica Brown, the book’s author, has an excellent curriculum guide on her website. You’ll also find a few pages of free worksheets. Look for the link for Curriculum Guide on the left-hand column.

If you have a free Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s account, you can also find a handful of free lesson plans and other resources here.

Read Alouds

Count us doubly-happy because there are read-aloud videos in both languages for this book, too. Check out the English-language read aloud below, or enjoy a high-quality Spanish-language version here.

José Alberto Guitérrez Sandoval

What would you do if you found a nice book lying in the trash? For José Alberto Guitérrez Sandoval, the answer was, “Pick it up.” You see, José used to be a trash collector in Bogotá, and his love of literature wouldn’t allow him to leave good books in the trash. So started his multi-decade journey toward building a library of his own. Check out José’s story below.

Digging for Words

This special, real-life story, written by Angela Burke Kunkel, shows how even in urban environments, children may lack good reading material and safe places to learn and explore. There are two versions of this book: one in English, and one in Spanish. Both tell the unforgettable story of José, his trash truck, and his love for the written word.

Rescatando palabras

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Learning Standards

Below you’ll find generic learning standards for Digging for Words, but this book could be used in many contexts and grades:

  • Compare and contrast rural versus urban
  • Identify two community helpers from the story
  • Determine words’ meanings from context
  • Describe what happens in a story
  • Identify the main idea or theme of a story
  • Connect reading to everyday life experiences, especially the library, storytime, and reading
  • Imagine how you might make an impact in your own community, no matter your age, job, or location

Teacher’s Guide and More

On her website, Angela Burke Kunke has several extension activities to make this book easy to incorporate into classrooms, libraries, or homeschools.

The Smithsonian’s TweenTribune has a great article covering the story, and even better, it has a link to assign the non-fiction article to your GoogleClassroom, complete with quiz, free-of-charge (but free account required).

Read Alouds

There are read-loud videos for both versions of this book, so whether you’re working in English, Spanish, or both, there’s something for you. We especially enjoyed the Spanish language version below, and you can find an English read aloud here.

What Makes a Library?

Drop us a comment below or contact us here. We’d love to hear your stories about amazing libraries, making a library of your own, or what you think makes a library more than just a collection of books. And if you found any of the above resources useful or fun, we’d love to know that, too! Until next time, we wish you happy reading!


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