An Inspired Elementary School Teacher Launches a Revolution in Reading For Colombia’s Rural Children in POV’s “Biblioburro: The Donkey Library”, Premiering Tuesday, July 19, 2011, on PBS
Donated Books, Two Donkeys and One Determined Man Refashion the Bookmobile For a Region Better Known for Guns, Drugs and Poverty
A Co-presentation With Latino Public Broadcasting
Luis Soriano is surely the most famous resident of La Gloria, a small town in a rural area of northern Colombia plagued by poverty, crime and armed insurrection. But Soriano’s fame has little to do with guns, drugs or politics. His reputation rests on the eight hooves of two sturdy donkeys named Alfa and Beto, his own two feet and his willingness to spend weekends tramping through rugged and dangerous backcountry. These are the components of a simple but brilliant idea using donkeys to bring a circulating library of donated books to the children in some of Colombia’s poorest and most remote towns and villages.
Carlos Rendón Zipagauta’s new documentary, Biblioburro: The Donkey Library, tells the story of 39-year-old Soriano and his traveling library from the point of view of the man himself and, one might say, his two hardworking burros. The film rides along with Soriano on one of his arduous weekend rounds and discovers a world of dense tropical beauty, nearly impassible trails, dangers both natural (snakes, swollen streams) and human (guerillas, bandits), open-air classrooms and, most wonderfully, a thirst for reading and knowledge. But Biblioburro is also a portrait of Soriano — an unassuming, small-town elementary school teacher who not only had a great idea, but has been acting on it every weekend for over a decade
Biblioburro provides a bracingly up-close sense of the determination and hard work required to saddle up each Saturday in the early morning darkness, and the sheer nerve and patience — not always expressed quietly by man or donkey — needed to brave Colombia’s poor and violence-torn hinterlands. Why would a man, and his family, persist in bearing such a burden? It soon becomes clear that Soriano is bringing more than books to the education-starved children of northern Colombia. He is bringing a gospel of education as the way the members of the next generation can transform their troubled country and their lives.
For more information and to check the broadcast schedule, click here.
Luis Soriano was one of the guest of honors at the 2011 Asian Festival of Children’s Content that I attended and I was so thrilled to meet him in person and listen to his speech! Bonita Sauder also attended the AFCC and wrote about Luis’ speech here. His story is told in the award winning picture book Biblioburro, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, which is a must read for children and adults alike!