Throughout the morning kids kept trickling in, arriving by bike or walking with a little sibling strapped to their back. By noon about thirty had found us. Generally the kids were fairly quiet and reserved, though more than a few were outwardly enthusiastic: the two little boys in my group of ten huddled together and whispered quietly to each other, looking around at everyone else and only vaguely trying to complete the word-find at hand; the girl at my side tapped my shoulder and proudly announced every word she found, and raced to finish first.
After word games and foam cutouts were mostly completed Blanca and I retrieved the books from the trunk, spread them out on a blanket, and invited the kids to each pick one to read. At first they approached the blanket shyly in twos and threes; after a few minutes nearly all of the kids ages eight and over clutched a book or were crouched over the pile, shuffling around for a suitable story to read. Rachel (a volunteer from the US), Ivo (Mano a Mano Apoyo Aereo pilot) and I sat with them, listened to them, and helped them read aloud. I read with Ronald, a 12-year-old boy wearing a red sweater and homemade slingshot slung over his shoulder. He read hesitantly, following the words with his index finger, carefully sounding out each sound and neglecting the spaces in between the words. Although I'm sure he knew most of the words he was reading, I doubt he understood them as he occupied himself with differentiating the sounds of b versus d and putting syllables together. His earnest attempts at what was obviously a difficult task were immediately interrupted if anyone, particularly a girl, looked over or walked by us: his eyes would nervously glance up at her and his voice would get suddenly soft.