They are still excited and still do not believe that they have been given the National Prize for the Promotion of Reading. Isabel Gallego and Ana Martínez, founding members of La Botica del Libro, say that perhaps it is a "too big" prize for a "very humble" project. But the jury considered them worthy of the award for "the conviction they show about the power of books to change the lives of people" with this cultural space of social integration with two offices in humble neighborhoods of Cartagena where the same is taught Spanish for foreigners, who try to attract adolescents to read through magazines or help kids with school duties.
Martínez, sitting in one of the rooms of La Botica madre -the center located in Lo Campano, a marginal neighborhood on the outskirts of the city-, remembers that everything began in 2004 in a group of adult education attended by mothers to "get the school graduate or even learn to read." They realized that "the books cure" when those who attended their classes told them that "they forgot their problems". "Many women stayed a couple of hours each day reading in one of our classrooms, they looked for refuge in books," says Martinez. In these adult education classes emerged La Botica, which led the theater group Garcia Lorca to help these women to learn about the world of literature by working on texts such as Bernarda Alba's house.
The second center of La Botica del Libro is located in the José María Lapuerta neighborhood, where many immigrant families live. In the neighborhood association, Spanish classes were organized, which resulted – thanks to the support of Luis López, president of the association – in the creation of La Botica intercultural, where they work with books in other languages donated by neighbors of the neighborhood or bringing own users when they travel to their countries of origin.
The beginnings of this pharmacy were "difficult" because people did not like to include immigrants in the classrooms of the neighborhood association, says Gallego. So, they had to start working on tolerance for the integration of immigrants.
In The Botica del Libro they are in charge of helping young people and adults to start and integrate in the world of literature. They try to convey the love they feel for books, for everyone: "I have learned to not classify literature as first or second, it is important to read the classics but we must value that a best seller It can be a passport for a person to become a reader, "says Ana Martínez. Some initiatives that are carried out consist of the distribution of baskets of books by shops in the neighborhood or the prescription of books through recipes: medicines for tolerance, to love cinema, to learn languages …
The promoters of the project say that many children have come to fight for borrowing a book but when they reach adolescence, that interest decays. However, they have found an outlet to keep reading, The kiosk: a bookshelf with magazines that "bring teenagers closer to reading". From there, seeing the interest they show, they can "take advantage to sell them" a book, they indicate.
Contact with schools
The minors attend the Lo Campano premises every afternoon -given by the City Council- to do their homework. When they finish their homework they are allowed to take a book or practice some sport. To incentivize the work they give them points that, at the end of the week, can be useful for a trip to the city, something that is valued a lot because "some have never left the neighborhood". With these practices they have succeeded in truancy be reduced from 80% to 45%.
Many parents of Lo Campano ask the volunteers to accompany them to the tutorials of the institute. "They trust us to help them in the education of their children," says Martinez, who values every small step a student takes. "We do not look for great successes, when a student passes an exam it is a success. If they reach Baccalaureate or Vocational Training, for us it is as if they had a PhD, "says Gallego, who recalls that one of the mottos of La Botica is summarized by the writer Eduardo Galeano:" Many small people in small places doing small things can change the world".