Literacy project holds water
Mission director creates dual-language book for Spanish resource vacuum
“Every household in Guatemala has a pila. [A cement or stone water reservoir, with one or more multipurpose wash basins.] Sometimes I wish my home in Canada had one,” says Katrina Janzen of Northview Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C.
Janzen, Global Shore Opportunities Canadian director, made this ubiquitous object from Guatemalan village life the centre of her newly released dual-language children’s book, In My Pila. The story of a little girl’s interaction with the common household item is deliberately relevant to Guatemala in text, images, and translation.
Several years ago, research on Spanish children’s books to outfit an elementary school library Global Shore operates in El Tizate, Guatemala, motivated Janzen to write her own book, drawing from her time living in Guatemala learning the language and local culture, to meet Global Shore’s needs.
“I discovered a shortage of appropriate books,” she says. Most had problems with the content, language, and themes. Many were popular English books in translation. “Storylines of Caucasian school children and Western culture are not relevant themes to developing Guatemala,” says Janzen. And the majority used the language of Spain “which is not the same as Latin American Spanish.”
Of the few Latino-written children’s books, many are steeped in local folklore and spirituality. “As a Christian school, we’ve chosen not to have any spiritual books that oppose the Christian message represented in our library.”
Initially, she planned to illustrate the book herself. Struggling to capture her image of a Spanish girl on paper, she shared her story idea with a friend, artist Krista Reimer, member of Port Rowan (Ont.) MB Church.
“Through our conversation, the Lord made my dream our dream,” says Janzen.
After studying photographs from El Tizate, Reimer produced accurate drawings to reflect the Guatemalan context. Guatemalan Global Shore collaborator Pahola Castañeda Acevedo translated Janzen’s text into Spanish. Their combined efforts produced an illustrated children’s book that will contribute to the education and spiritual development of children in Guatemala.
In My Pila is a non-profit publication. “All proceeds fund further literacy initiatives in Guatemala, a country with a low literacy rate and very few libraries,” says Janzen.
Global Shore Opportunities is a Canadian Christian non-profit founded by Robert and Carolyn Konrad and Port Rowan MB members Ken and Julie Wall, with the mission of “raising up disciples of Christ in Canada and Guatemala.”
—Stacey Weeks, Ontario correspondent
Updated June 3, 2013: link to book order information added.