As a child, it is easy to get lost. Not lost, as in disappearing into a large throng of people (although, unfortunately, that is also easy to do), but lost, as in vanishing into an activity and becoming so captivated that you completely disconnect with the outside world. Children can be so absolutely mesmerized by an activity that any effort to disturb them will be met with a sudden, startled jolt back into reality and a momentary dazed expression in their wide eyes.

Culture of Reading Program student

First grader Ismelia Ajuyos beams with pride as she shows off the drawing she created as part of the Culture of Reading Program.

There is no better example of this ability to become transfixed by a task than what happens to Ismelia Ajuyos, a first-grader at La Canoa primary school, when she participates in CoEd’s Culture of Reading Program. CORP aims to foster a lifelong love of reading and learning in children by providing teachers with best practices in reading instruction, as well as a selection of engaging storybooks. If Ismelia is any indication, CORP is achieving its goal in every way.

Ismelia loses herself in learning every day. She is enchanted by the multitude of books, delighted to perform story dramatizations, and enthralled by the reading activities her teacher, Ana, organizes daily. One such activity includes clapping twice whenever the students hear a new vocabulary word in the story Ana is reading aloud. Ismelia is always up to the task, eager and excited to participate. She cocks her head slightly, perking up her ears to ensure that she hears every single syllable. Upon recognizing a new vocabulary word, she gasps slightly, quickly claps twice, then immediately resumes her original position in preparation for the next word. Nothing else in the world exists right now. Nothing else matters.

primary school student in Guatemala

CORP students hard at work in a reader’s workshop writing and drawing their own stories.

Her mother, Irma Yolanda, is astounded by Ismelia’s interest in learning. She says, “When Ismelia comes home after school, all it takes is a simple question like ‘What did you do in school today?’ and Ismelia tells me every detail about her day—she even repeats the dramatizations and songs they do.” Irma goes on to explain that Ismelia’s older brother, now a sixth-grader, didn’t learn to read until second grade, so she is absolutely amazed that Ismelia is already reading and writing less than two months into her first-grade year. Ismelia’s progress is not an anomaly; a 2012 study showed that students in the CORP program scored 22% higher in reading comprehension than children did at the same schools before CORP was introduced.

Ismelia's family

Ismelia’s mother makes sure she never misses a day of school because she knows the importance of girls education.

“We make sure that Ismelia never skips a day of school,” says Irma. “I don’t want her to miss out on a single moment of the wonderful learning experience she is getting.” As Ismelia pulls out her latest drawing (a CORP method used to help the students reflect on the stories they read), it is impossible not to notice the wide, satisfied grin on her face. She begins to eagerly chatter away to her mother, detailing and explaining every part of the illustration. She quickly becomes absorbed in the story, lost in learning once more.