Daniela Elena Franco ’99: Inspiring Children to Read

Tell me about your life's path from Shipley to Libros Para Todos.
After Shipley, I went to Lewis & Clark College in Portland and double majored in Foreign Languages (French, Spanish and Italian) and International Studies. I studied abroad in Italy and the Dominican Republic. I then spent a year teaching English in Czech Republic and South Korea. Then I studied a masters in International Policy Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (Monterey, CA), then I worked in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea as an International Development Fellow for Catholic Relief Services, then I studied a masters in Business Administration at the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Mexico), then I had my two daughters here in Mexico and stayed home with them for two years. In 2015, I took over as director of the nonprofit organization Libros para Todos, which is where I currently work.
I am also on the board of directors of another nonprofit that does microlending and business training here in Mexico. I am on the steering committee of a group that does feminist programming, and on a parental committee at my kids' Waldorf school.
What excites you most about your work?
I love reading and I love spreading that love to children. I get to see children own their first book and discover how fulfilling it is to get lost in a book. A lot of their parents never went to high school or middle school and some are illiterate, so this is potentially a big deviation from the path they were headed down. I also like the lifestyle of the job—not being stuck in an office, but being active organizing workshops, visiting schools in rural communities, reading, and meeting with co-workers and volunteers.
Why is your work important? Beyond inspiring kids to learn how to read, what impact do you see?
We do 'Big Read' campaigns, where about 600 kids (per campaign) read the same book and then meet the author personally. Seeing them connect in that way makes an impact and I love witnessing that transformation. A child has told me that meeting the author was a dream come true. Another told me that since the Big Read he's begun sneaking a flashlight under the sheets at night to keep reading other books that he's found. We want the children to aspire to higher educational goals than their parents reached by developing a solid habit of reading from an early age. In short, we want to make nerds out of them.
Tell me about your time at Shipley.
I started at Shipley in 1990, in fourth grade. I had so many great teachers! Mrs Clark in fifth grade, Sandi Richards, Mr. Noce, Mr. Moss, Mr. Asselin, Mrs. Franco (my mother), Mr Nammack, Ms. Pendergast, Mrs Maddock… I can't possibly mention them all. I might not have appreciated it at the time, but since then I have come to realize what a great school Shipley is and how prepared I was in college and ever since. I have always enjoyed school, and although it's been challenging at times, I always felt capable of doing well in every course, no matter how seemingly difficult it may have been. I was taught a very solid base of critical thinking skills, writing skills, and presentation skills and these skills have helped me so much in the last 20 years.
If you could send a message or give advice to this year's graduating seniors about pursuing a career or making a difference in the world, what would it be?
Don't be afraid to try something new, to risk failing at something and push yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible, because that is when you get to see who you really are and what you are capable of achieving and becoming.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.