Stories shared in Spanish: Volunteers read as part of Books 4 Buddies

Original article posted in The Toldeo Blade - 10/2/2015

WOODVILLE — The squirming, smiling preschoolers couldn’t contain their excitement on Thursday as a roomful of visitors came to read and deliver books to them.

The 15 children, all students at the Migrant Head Start in Helena, listened to several volunteers in a Spanish read-aloud as part of the Toledo-based Books 4 Buddies program, which provides free books to area children and promotes literacy.

“We think if you become good readers, you will be good students,” said Christopher Smith, a mentor with Books 4 Buddies.

“Cool!” exclaimed 4-year-old Carlos Gonzalez, eliciting a laugh from the crowd.

“Yes, exactly right,” Mr. Smith said. “Reading is cool, never forget that. The more you read, the more you learn and the more options you create for yourself.”

Students heard several stories in Spanish read by State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon), Sylvania musician Miguel Saucedo, and Baldemar Velasquez, president of Farmer Labor Organizing Committee, who has spent decades organizing and advocating for farm workers in northwest Ohio.

“I was 12 years old before I got my first book,” Mr. Velasquez told the students, praising the program for getting books to the students. “This is very, very good.”

Three students from Toledo’s Scott High School also read, including foreign exchange student Alex Peralta, who is from Madrid, Spain, and is a senior this year.

“I really like to volunteer,” he said in Spanish before the event. “And it’s forcing me to find the words in Spanish again.”

By the end of the month, most of the students’ families will leave northwest Ohio with the end of the growing season, and the school will close for the year. This year, the preschoolers will be sent on their way with a book in hand.

“They don’t have a lot of things to take with them,” said Niki Holland, center manager at the facility. “For them to be able to get books to take with them, it’s a great thing. You can see how excited they are.”

After the read-aloud, the students excitedly crowded around to pick out additional books, eager to show the guests their new haul. Books 4 Buddies president Laneta Goings, who co-founded the organization with her grandson in 2012, said deliveries such as Thursday’s were exactly why the program exists.

“We know that reading is the pathway to life,” she said. “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything. ... This is what it’s all about, our future leaders.”