Reading Is Believing
Inspired by National Library Week (April 9-15, 2017), Cbus Chic chats with Columbus’s very own Stella Villalba about her work to fill Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Center’s children’s area with English and Spanish langue books. Plus, we learn how reading and books have always been an integral part of Villalba’s life.
I’m a reader. A writer. A lover of learning, literature, art, evolving and all things Columbus. You’ll easily find me in many places around the city carrying a book.
It might surprise a lot of people that know me, but I wasn’t always a reader. I grew up in Argentina and Paraguay where books were very expensive. So, I didn’t grow up surrounded by them. I would read, but I didn’t have any passion for reading. My family supported education with all their heart; they owned a restaurant and their lives were filled with crazy schedules so they trusted us to be independent learners.
I started my journey as an educator at the American School of Asuncion and realized how my 4th graders were lost in the world of Charlotte’s Web. They loved that book so much! And they took their books everywhere – there were tears and laughs. At that point, I came to the realization that I wanted to be like these readers who got lost in the pages of the book. So I bought my first book as an adult: Charlotte’s Web.
I remember how expensive this book was in my country. But I didn’t care. I was determined to explore this life as a reader. And that was just the beginning. At age 19, I was devouring all the children’s literature that I missed in my childhood years. My next purchase was the Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goldman. It changed my life, and that was first lesson: books have the power to change someone’s life.
Then in the year 1999, an amazing concept café was born in Paraguay: Café Literario, a wonderful coffee shop where you could enjoy a wonderful “cafecito” while you read their amazing collection of books for FREE.
I couldn’t believe my blessings. I would spend my summer days and afternoons buried in books. I told the owners, one day I would be able to pay forward this amazing opportunity to have books in my hands. So, when my friend Ramona Reyes, who is the director for Our Lady of Guadalupe Center, told me about their plans of expanding from a food pantry to a community center, I knew exactly what this meant. This was my opportunity to pay it forward.
The goal is for the new community center to have a children’s area filled with books. This way, children can loose themselves in the pages of a book while their families are picking up food from the pantry, taking English classes, learning a new skill or consulting with one of their many community professional volunteers.
This children’s area isn’t only my own dream coming true, but also a community effort. There is no way I could do this alone. Personally, I’m donating 250 books to the center and the rest of the book purchases are coming from my side business as a Rodan + Fields consultant (100 % of the sales profit goes toward the children’ area). There’s also donations from my wonderful tribe, friends, and community.
The goal is to have around 400 books (either in Spanish or English). Our Lady of Guadalupe Center is moving to a new location at the end of April with a projected Grand Opening date of May 4th. It’s my goal to have the children’s area completed by this time.
I believe reading is the door that can truly open opportunities for you. It’s the window that allows you to learn how others have accomplished things in life. But it’s also the mirror that allows you to believe that success and happiness can also happen to you.
Learn more about Our Lady of Guadalupe Center and their programming by clicking here to visit their website. If you’d like to donate a book, you can check out Stella Villalba’s Amazon wishlist that include books in Spanish and English.
And to learn more about Stella Villalba, visit her online at https://about.me/stellavillalba.