Read Across America and Imperial Valley

CALEXICO — Dr. Suess-themed activities and tables games were set up throughout the parking lot of Camarena Public Library on Thursday, March 3 as volunteers from the Associated Calexico Teachers helped youngsters celebrate Read Across America.

Earlier that morning, in the north end of the Valley, Brawley Elementary School District board President Gil Rebollar sat down in Maria Flores’ first-grade class and read to students of Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School.

Thursday’s events were two of many that occurred through Imperial County all week dedicated to celebrating the importance and love of reading.

“We want to always encourage our kids to read, to read for the fun of it,” said Calexico Library Manager Lizeth Legaspi. “We try to hold these events every two months or so to encourage that.”

Camarena Memorial Library bi-monthly reading event was held in the parking lot rather than inside the library on Thursday evening, and this month, of course, was themed for Dr. Seuss to celebrate Read Across America.

Wednesday, March 2 was National Read Across America Day 2022, and most libraries and schools across America held some kind of activity either throughout the week or on March 2, which also coincides with the birthday of famous children’s author Theodor Geisel, better known to the world as dr. Seuss, creator of Cat in the Hat,” the Grinch, and Sam I Am, to name a few characters.

Brothers Jesus (right) and Jacobo are Thing 1 and 2 for Camarena Memorial Library’s Read Across America family night on Thursday evening, March 3 in Calexico. † KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO.

Started in 1998, the National Education Association has been using Read Across America to encourage and inspire children to pick up a book and read, wherever they are, whatever they can find, and to keep doing it. It also encourages parents to read to their kids, “get caught” reading a book, and take their children to their local library.

Calexico’s teachers are regular volunteers during the library’s celebration of Read Across America. Many of them brought their students to the library. Some said it was nice to do such an event in person and to see the numbers in attendance increase from two years ago.

Patty Fimbres, Associated Calexico Teachers treasurer and a math teacher at Calexico High School, said the teachers always try to come to the library to encourage reading. Even in math, she said, reading is essential.

“We make it a point to stress to express to our students that reading is essential for success and for every day,” Fimbres said. “It’s very important.”

The library had tables of activities for the children, from puppet bags of “Fox in Socks,” Dr. Seuss bookmarks and door decorations, and more. Games like croquet and tic-tac-toe bean bag toss were a hit and had long lines. Nearby was a reading circle where a Calexico teacher read Dr. Seuss books to the children gathered around. Children were even running around in costumes of Dr. Seuss characters and other book characters.

All children were given a goodie bag with supplies including a free new book, courtesy of the Camarena library.

Yulil Garza helps 3-year-old Carolina pick her tic-tac-toe square at Camarena Memorial Library’s Read Across America event on Thursday evening, March 3 in Calexico. † KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO.

Raquel Godinez brought her daughter to have some fun after learning about the program on Facebook. Right now, she is trying to get her daughter to read at least five minutes every night.

“The kids love it, and I think it could be a first step in connecting with the community,” Godinez said.

“I like ‘The Cat in the Hat,’” said Calexico resident Dylan Ramirez, who was in full Dr. Seuss gear with his Cat in the Hat outfit running to each station with a friend.

Johanna Santana came all the way from Imperial so her daughters could have a nice family night. She did story time on Zoom during the pandemic and even now brings her daughters out to Calexico to have in-person reading time.

“We love it. They like Dr. Seuss, they like having all the different activities they get to do with the art, it’s a lot of fun for them,” Santana said.

Legaspi hopes families will be able to join the library again next month for their next evening event.

Hidalgo School Welcomes the Public

In Brawley, for the first time this year, Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School opened its gates to public visitors for a “Readers are Leaders” event during Read Across America week.

About 20 community volunteers from outside and within the school were all ready to read to the classrooms. Each reader was taken to a class and read a book of their choice to the children, who sat in their desks but listened with rapt attention.

The readers came from all over Brawley and the Valley, including Brawley City Council members, Brawley Elementary School District board members, Brawley police officers and firefighters, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and volunteers from within the school staff. Some were even former students of Hidalgo, who came home to give back.

Brawley Mayor Sam Couchman was dress to the nines as the Cat in the Hat as he read from “The Cat in the Hat” to Hidalgo Elementary School students in Brawley on Thursday, March 3. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

Principal Bessie Jones said this was meant to be a day to encourage reading and saw that the community members were just as excited as the kids. She said she could see the students were “craving” that interaction from the people who were coming to visit. She was even told by a student later in the day that “a famous person came to our classroom!”

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“Our main focus was to remind students that even though we are going through what we are going through, reading still is very important to their success,” Jones said.

Some readers went a step further while reading. Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Alexandra Perez had a sixth-grade class and during her visit asked some students to read for the entire class. Perez said this was a great opportunity for her to interact with them and push the older kids to read and remind them that it can be fun to do so.

“I engaged with them to figure out why they did or didn’t like reading and then let them have fun with reading to remind them that reading is fun,” Perez said.

Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Alexandra Perez encouraged students to read with her and to their fellow students during Read Across America events on at Hidalgo Elementary School in Brawley on Thursday, March 3. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

Even after the readers were done, some of the students wouldn’t let them leave. Third-grade teacher Lucero Balderrama said her students kept asking Brawley police Cmdr. Rene McNish questions about his job, his life, and more after he was done reading. They just were so excited to have a police officer in the classroom and did not want the experience to end.

Even the readers themselves were not ready to leave in some cases. They all enjoyed the reading time so much it was hard to pull away Thursday morning.

“When he was reading they were engaged, they were participating, and I think it was both ways,” Balderrama said. “He was very excited and enthusiastic about talking to the students and the student reciprocated that.

“It was awesome opportunity to hear from them and for them to see true leaders,” McNish said.

First-grade teacher Maria Flores said she was very happy to see in-person readers this year, since Zoom does not feel the same and the kids cannot interact as well with a reader through a screen.

“It was just a good experience for them to have someone in the classroom,” Flores said.

Brawley City Council member Ramon Castro reads “The Lorax” to Ms. Remington’s fifth-grade class during Read Across America events on at Hidalgo Elementary School in Brawley on Thursday, March 3. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

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