WATSONVILLE — Groups of elementary students, many in their Halloween costumes, gathered in Starlight Elementary School’s quad Wednesday for the annual “Un Libro a La Vez” (“One Book at a Time”) reading event.
A collaboration between the school, Watsonville High School’s ECHO Academy and the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, “Un Libro a La Vez” aims to promote literacy and connect the Pajaro Valley community. Members of ECHO Academy read out loud to the students, engaging them in discussion about the stories.
“It’s heartwarming,” said David Vasquez, a Watsonville High School senior who’s been involved in ECHO Academy for three years and helped organize this year’s event. “The kids look at us like we’re super-human. It feels like we’re really making a difference in their lives.”
Dawn Krenz, an ECHO Academy teacher, was on hand Wednesday to help organize the groups and support the young readers.
“It’s important to create leaders in our community that these young kids can look up to,” Krenz said. “Especially ones they can relate to. And it’s very empowering for the high schoolers, too.”
Alondra Morales, who was dressed up in an elaborate Frida Kalo outfit for Halloween, explained the impact the annual event has had on her personally.
“It’s been really special for me,” she said. “I get a lot of happiness and satisfaction out of what we do here.”
The experience of being read aloud to is extremely important in a children’s educational development, event organizers stated.
“Every kid’s situation is different at home,” Morales said. “We don’t know how much they get read to outside of school. This gives them a chance to know what it’s like.”
Morales added that the young students were just as interested in asking Morales about herself and high school life as they were in the readings.
“There are always a lot of questions,” she laughed. “They always want to know more about the world. They want to explore.”