Professionally, Carolyn Johnson has more than 30 years’ experience as a teacher and elementary school principal. In 2006, she began volunteering in Guatemala to improve the quality of literacy instruction for indigenous children.
Over the next year, she returned to Guatemala several times, meeting with nonprofits, teachers, community members, and school administrators. She developed a process for primary teachers to use (Culture of Reading Program) based on the Concentrated Language Encounter method used widely in other parts of the world. A partnership was formed with the nonprofit Cooperative for Education (CoEd), which has a strong presence in Guatemala.
The Guatemala Literacy Project provides teacher training, a low-cost textbook rental program, literacy materials, and computer labs to children in some of the country’s lowest-performing middle and secondary schools. Together with intensive teacher training, the textbook program has helped decrease the middle school dropout rate by almost half. And more than 80 percent of graduates use their computer skills to further their education or get higher-paying jobs.
The Culture of Reading program has provided training and support for nearly 1,000 primary grade teachers in 94 schools, directly improving the quality of reading instruction for 25,000 students. More than 600 Rotary clubs in Guatemala, the United States, Canada, Cayman Islands, England, and Japan have provided financial support for the Guatemala Literacy Project. Every year, about 50 Rotary volunteers take part by delivering materials and visiting classrooms.