Pre-Texts in Rio de Janeiro, 2013

Pre-TEXT in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


A group of Pre-Texts facilitators and students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) was honored to take Pre-Text to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during they study trek last March, 2013.  

Ali Thomas, Erin Murphy and Pratima Patil Masters students in the International Education Policy; Tara McCarney, Masters student in Language and Literacy and Juliana Porto, a Brazilian pediatric neurologist and visiting scholar in the Mind, Brain and Education Program at HGSE became Pre-Text facilitators and were excited to share the work in several places in Brazil.



  •  Brief report: The experience at ISERJ Mini Pre-text workshop:


On the afternoon of March 18th, 2013 the group ran a three-hour PRE-Texts workshop at the Instituto Superior de Educacao do Rio de Janeiro (ISERJ).

First established in 1880, today ISERJ offers coursework in administration, computer science, secretarial skills, and pedagogy to over five thousand students, and serves as a center for educational development in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Over the course of the afternoon, a group of thirty-five educational professionals working at ISERJ, local NGOs, and in the surrounding Rio communities, created art together as they experienced the PRE-Texts model. By the end of the day, after answering one last, “What did we do?” it was clear that everyone, participants and facilitators, had learned something new about the integration of literacy and the arts.

We are now collecting feedback from the professionals who attended the workshop to come up with a report, but so far the best contacts for further Involvements are:


-        Roberto and Idelfonso who want to train and get more knowledge to start a pilot at a school and work on a bigger project there.

-        Fabio de Barros Pereira from Vidigal School and his mentor from UERJ. Fabio wants to adapt Pre-texts for his school as a pilot and use it as the basis for his doctoral project at UERJ.

-        Patricia Nascimento and Laurie (fellows from UK) from ICOS are interested in adapting Pre-Texts for their program against violence in the Formiga slum. Patricia was the main contact we had to establish the workshop at ISERJ. She’s a graduate student studying pedagogy at ISERJ.

ICOS is an NGO located in a very violent low-income area where they do several interventions with children/families on education and citizenship, leading “laboratories of citizenship” and many other interventions. They are funded by Bernard Van Leer Foundation and the website is in English:



  • Brief report about Espaço Criança Esperança (ECE) workshops


Espaço Criança Esperança is one of the biggest NGOs in Brazil and it has provided educational, cultural, and recreational activities to over 8,000 children and young people in the South of Rio de Janeiro since 2001.  

The group of PRE-Texts facilitators arrived at Espaço Criança Esperança hoping to give the students and staff a taste of the PRE-Texts experience. Knowing from their work with PRE-Texts in Cambridge that every workshop is unique, the Harvard PRE-Texts facilitators were excited to see what ECE’s preschoolers and monitors would make of it.   

After a warm-up inspired by Augusto Boal, which had the little ones learning opposites by jumping, squatting, walking and freezing in place, the preschoolers were all smiles and giggles.  They settled down as Juliana Porto read an excerpt from “The Little Prince” aloud.  Following the story, the kids enjoyed the quintessential PRE-Texts activity- creating their own books from recycled materials.   Each child decorate a book, adding things he or she thinks is important to care for, referring to the famous line from the story " You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” The following activity was to showcase their work, so they could admire each other’s pieces.

It was delightful to recap the story the following day.  The 4-6yo kids reflected on the main messages from the introspective text and answered, “What was the text talking about?” “It’s about friendship” was one of the beautiful answers. Each child took great pride in his or her masterpiece, and, as they left, they discussed their plans to share their own books and story with in their communities.

The facilitators also introduced the PRE-Texts workshop to the Criança Esperança monitors, former students who help the organization with administrative tasks and provide extra hands to assist with the younger children. The adolescents were undoubtedly challenged by Machado de Assis’s tale “The Devil’s Church” as the focal text.  It’s indeed a dense philosophical text that invites reflection on the human essence, one of the hallmarks of the Brazilian author.  At first, the monitors struggled with difficult words and phrases that seem incomprehensible.  As the workshop progressed, it was amazing how the monitors engaged with the difficult piece and used it as the basis for play.  They acted out lines from the text in Machado-inspired theater, made drawings with partners, asked questions of the text, and displayed their work following in the tradition of Cordel Literature.  One of the participants summed up his experience saying, "At first the words were really weird and it was a bit strange, but then it was really cool.” The difference was remarkable in the interest and critical elaborative capacity after only two days of workshop.

ECE published about the Pre-text experience in their blog:







  • Brief report about Culture Secretary meeting and biblioteca visits


In order to explore options for bringing the Pre-Texts model to Rio/Brazil on a larger scale, the Pre-Texts facilitators from HGSE set up meetings at the Ministry of Culture.  We spoke with Olivia Bandeira, Coordinator of Cultural Diversity of the

Superintendence of Culture and Society, and Vera Savoy, Superintendent of Reading and Knowledge. After we introduced the Pre-Texts model, Olivia and Vera told us about an exciting new project they have in the works.  The Ministry is in the process of creating a network of community spaces based on the Colombian “bibliotecas” model that has seen great success in recent years.  The Bibliotecas-parques (library-parks) are cultural centers that are free, open to the public, and located in some of the most social challenging slums areas.  Each space is equipped with a range of books available to borrow, a digital media lab, and a theater for performing arts.  Currently, three Bibliotecas have been opened in the favela communities of Rocinha, Manguinhos (near to the Complexo do Alemao) and Niteroi.  We were invited to visit both the Rocinha and Manguinhos sites, and were delighted by what we found.  The spaces are warm and inviting, not to mention creative and inspiring.  Beyond the spaces themselves though, we were struck by the staff.  We met artists, teachers and other community members dedicated to making their biblioteca a place where the community thrives- a space for everyone, especially the youth.  Currently, the bibliotecas run programs around literacy and the arts.  Because of this dual emphasis, and because of the excited and capable staff working at each bibiloteca, we think the Pre-Texts model would be a welcome edition to these spaces.  Pre-Texts would benefit from strengthening its partnership with the Ministry, and the Ministry seems excited about the potential.

            The main connection we had to the Ministry of Culture was Geo Britto, who works in Theater of the Oppressed and is interested in collaborating with Harvard and working with Pre-Text.

Biblioteca Park Projects Manguinhos e Rocinha:


·         Closing remarks:

The experience facilitating the workshops was excellent. We believe that partnerships could lead to huge gains for everyone, and we are seeking to work with PRE-Texts on the implementation of local programs in Brazil systematically and continuously. This was an essential starting point for future endeavors.



You are here