Li Li Li!: Literacy Project in Haiti

In 15 tent cities in Haiti, a program called Li Li Li! [Read Read Read!] (one of the projects of Konbit Pou Ayiti/Konpay) works to promote literacy and help children overcome the inevitable trauma from the earthquake that left up to 300,000 dead. AFP reports that the reading groups have grown exponentially from the beginning of the project when “only a handful of kids sat on the wet ground, watching, and listening intently as a woman read aloud to them” to the present when the groups have grown to crowds of 60, “formed as curious children carrying baby siblings were joined by adults, eager for diversion from the tedium that, along with the rains, has settled into Haiti’s sprawling camps since the January earthquake.” Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

The reader, Natacha Micourt, was an artist until the January 12 quake destroyed her studio and left her trapped under the rubble for two days. Now the 32-year-old painter earns 250 dollars a month as a Li Li Li! reader. Micourt acts out stories of magic hats and Clifford, the big red dog, to the delight of the children, allowing them a brief escape from the grim reality of their post-quake existence.

[. . .] But Li Li Li! is not only about stress release, it is also an attempt to entrench a love for reading in a country where, before the earthquake, 44 percent of the population could not read or write, according to UN estimates. “Illiteracy will go up even more after the earthquake because so many schools were destroyed,” Li Li Li! coordinator Germinal Jocelyn told AFP. Jocelyn’s job is to scout out “unofficial” camps overlooked by Haitian authorities and relief organizations so the reading club can direct its efforts where they are most needed. “NGOs don’t come here, they don’t even know these camps exist,” she told AFP of the camp in Tabarre.

Li Li Li! is the brainchild of Michelle Karshan, an American and former spokeswoman for the government of ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Karshan launched the initiative with two of her daughters, who also grew up in Haiti, to help them overcome their own shock after the earthquake. [. . .] In the weeks after the quake, Karshan studied the benefits of telling stories to traumatized children, calling on friends to donate colorful books, which were vetted for appropriateness and translated into Creole.

While taking on the daunting problem of illiteracy is well beyond the organization’s capacity, Karshan hopes the program will serve as a model that at least encourages parents and teachers to read stories to children. “The most important investment is for Haitian children to learn how to read and write,” Karshan added, regretting that due to the enormous problems facing Haiti since the earthquake, literacy had been pushed near the bottom of the priority list for politicians and aid groups.

For full article, see

For more information on the literacy project, see

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