For the second year in a row buildOn students in the San Francisco Bay Area attracted throngs of elementary-aged children from troubled neighborhoods in Richmond to participate in a local Read Across America festival. Organized by a group of buildOn program coordinators, participants, and volunteers in conjunction with West County Reads, the function observed national Read Across America day with a host of interactive exhibits.
Over 300 grade school youth convened at the Richmond Public Library on March 5th to enjoy literacy motivation and awareness activities, as well as festival games like raffles and face-painting. Local author Summer Brenner read from her book Richmond Tales, and mayor Gayle McLaughlin spoke to applaud the city’s parents for supporting their children’s education.[pullquote]We’ve heard stories about kids only having one or two books at home to read. It was incredible to see them walk away from the event with stacks of books.[/pullquote]
Home of the infamously crime-ridden “Iron Triangle,” Richmond, CA further encompasses school districts with some of the state’s lowest test scores. “We’ve heard stories about kids only having one or two books at home to read,” says buildOn coordinator Angel Sandriepe. “It was incredible to see them walk away from the event with stacks of books. West County Reads got over 1600 books donated for the festival.” Most of the event’s activities awarded stamps for participating kids to later redeem for books. This promoted reading as a reward rather than a chore or a task, and allowed underprivileged children to push the boundaries of their language skills.
Notably, buildOn’s youth service students from high schools around the bay ran all of the festival booths themselves, and interacted with the younger children to show them the power of literary. “Most of our buildOn students claim that this is their favorite event,” Angel adds. “They look forward to it every year.”