Enthralled by tales from Grandma

7th October 2005 at 01:00
ARGENTINA. "Listen carefully," says Hugo Orbea, 78, to the 10 children clustered around him. "This is a tale, called 'Brotherhood until Death', about why our town has three nearby lakes. It is about love, sacrifice and fraternity."

The children, aged 11 and 12, sit enraptured by the story about two teenage boys who fall in love with a girl, who has to reject them both because she does not want to upset either of them. The children hold on to Hugo as they listen, moved by the tale.

He pauses to explain words, "What does fraternity mean?" he asks. At once, several children define it as "brotherhood" or "bonds between brothers".

Once he has finished the story they chat for a while about the morals of it.

Mr Orbea is one of 20 grandparents in the farming town of 9 de Julio, 150 miles from Buenos Aires, participating in an award-winning literacy scheme for primary children, set to be adopted in schools in Derbyshire.

The grandparents come weekly for 30 to 40 minutes to read tales to classes of up to 20 children.

Mr Orbea says: "It's fantastic. It is for poor children in our town who have little access to books - and it gets me out of the house."

Etelvis Nedda Gala$ena, 65, says: "I like to embellish the tales a bit and see how the children react." Since 2000, more than 120 grandparents and 140 schools in Argentina have been taking part in the programme, which is supported by Fundaci"n Mempo Giardinelli, a literacy foundation.

Now Read On-Write Away, a British organisation promoting literacy in deprived parts of the Midlands, plans to introduce the programme in Derbyshire in the next two months. The scheme was named one of the world's 100 best educational activities by the United Nations in 2004.

Mar!a Ester Enrico, who introduced it in 9 de Julio in May, said the schools did not even have libraries. "The grandparents come from richer parts of the town, so I think it helps social inclusion, too," she said.

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