Javier Arévalo

Ashoka Fellow
Lima, LI, Peru
Fellow Since 2011

Citation

This profile was prepared when Javier Arévalo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
As a noted Peruvian author, Javier is addressing the poor quality of public education in Peru by encouraging a new culture of reading comprehension. The low levels of reading comprehension, made evident in a myriad standardized tests of Peruvian students, have stunted the ability of an entire society to attain higher level critical thinking and technical skills. Through Recreo, Javier is making books more accessible and reading a more enjoyable experience. His strategy first stimulates the demand for reading on the community level by organizing teachers as change agents to introduce better quality books in schools. Along with selected parents, these adult representatives become promoters of reading, setting and achieving community-wide goals for better material and intellectual resources to be made available to children and young people. Recreo also helps schools install, improve, and maintain their libraries, which are typically poorly funded and minimally used institutions that could serve as magnets for the new reading culture Javier seeks to develop.

To meet this new demand for reading, Javier directs much of his project’s efforts toward improving the Peruvian publishing industry, the “supply” of reading materials. Rather than rely on the frequently prosaic government texts, Javier incentivizes national authors to write new books with more exciting and engaging age-appropriate themes. He also works with editorial houses and newspaper printing presses to publish the books at much lower prices and sell them to the government for broader use throughout the public school system, especially targeting marginalized and underserved students whose access to quality reading is particularly low. As bookstores too are isolated in communities and most people purchase their reading materials in news stands, Javier also helps install special kiosks that sell the new books whose publication Recreo has supported at a price well within reach of the general population.

The third arm of his strategy, influencing public policy, serves to construct new “rules of the game” to nurture and support reading programs. As a well-known author, Javier was the leading champion for the 2006 National Reading Plan, a federal law to promote literature in educational institutions. It requires schools to adopt a new reading plan. Implementation of the National Reading Plan was a significant preliminary step in Javier’s scheme to build a policy framework that would enable Recreo to launch its community-wide activities with federal legitimacy. Recreo’s public policy projects seek to influence educational regulations, public school curricula, and federal budget appropriations for schools and libraries. In this way, Javier is setting the stage for a nationwide impact and replication of his successes in communities throughout Peru.

Javier is convinced that his efforts, happening at a time when there is a heightened concern in Peru about its reading scores, will result in major improvements to Peru’s reading scores within ten years.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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