Literary World Mourns Loss of Dear Friend

May 21, 2010

Dear Nica Times:

I often write a Community Connection column about happy happenings in San Juan del Sur, but today, I, along with my library friend, Carol Rea, from Granada, would like to share with you some very sad news for all of Nicaragua and especially the literacy and educational movements here: Eduardo Baez of Libros Para Niños passed away of a massive heart attack on May 8. He was 57.

Eduardo was a larger-than-life person who was passionate about putting books in the hands of children. He and his organization, Libros Para Niños, set up reading corners all over Nicaragua. They held reading festivals and published over 20 books, several written by Nicaraguan authors.

His funeral last week was a tribute to his dream. First of all, the funeral procession was lead by scores of children carrying books. At the office for Libros Para Niños, his coffin was taken in for his last visit, where his son spoke. A well-known Nicaraguan musician, Mario Montenegro, sang his favorite song and someone read his favorite children’s book, “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch.

There were dozens and dozens of people walking behind the hearse and 20 or more cars following behind.

Nicaragua has lost an amazing son. To say he had an amazing influence in the literacy campaign is putting it mildly. He was truly a guiding light that inspired so many of us.

He was my dear friend and mentor, too. He was the one who spoke most eloquently each year for the U.S. library science students who visited Nicaragua for a course at the San Juan Del Sur library. And he had just begun a new collaboration of lending books with our same system in a program called Ruta de Lectura.

Eighteen of the books Libros Para Niños publishes are available on the International Children’s Digital Library Site at University of Maryland.

It is a sad day and the loss is immense indeed. Eduardo’s wife, Gabriela Maria Reyes, is organizing a reading festival in his honor on the ninth day from his death in Jinotepe. Our libraries will participate in all the locations we can muster.

Eduardo was also a great friend of Biblioteca Puedo Leer in Granada. He gave many books, great ideas and much encouragement and support to this sister organization, as well as to our library and many others. Biblioteca Puedo Leer plans to honor the memory and work of Eduardo Baez May 18 by setting up a “rincón de lecturas,” or reading corner, in the central park.

There will be books there for children of all ages to enjoy, and every hour, on the hour, they will have a volunteer read a story aloud to whoever is gathered around. Below is a paragraph from an interview with Eduardo last year. It shows his passion for reading and how he applied it at Libros Para Niños.

“We talk a lot about the conditions that create the economic, social and political marginalization that prevents so many of our compatriots from leading a better life, and in doing so, we often look only at the material conditions as determining factors. “At Libros para Niños, however, we’re convinced that reading is a fundamental factor in human development.”

The whole interview can be seen at: www.envio.org.ni/articulo/2102.

Please think of us at this sad time.

Jane Mirandette & Carol Rea

San Juan del Sur & Granada, NICARAGUA

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