Wow. She has a beautiful smile. So alive. So mischievous.
“We have books. Do you want to take some home with you?”
She looks at her dad, asking for permission. “Estamos dando libros gratis. Venga a escoger algunos para llevárselos a casa,” I translate for her father.
This conversation took place in the Community Corridor at Manatee County Technical College during Remote Area Medical (RAM) weekend. RAM provides free healthcare, dental, and vision services to underserved and uninsured individuals.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s (SCGLR) “Book Nook” had bookshelves with more than 2,500 books displayed for children to select and take home. There was an ABC carpet with colorful blocks where children could color or read, and a rocking chair where the kiddos could gather around and listen to a story read by volunteers. SCGLR also had an information table with Vroom cards, Mind in the Making materials, and a Family Guide with reading tips and general information about SCGLR and our “Strive for Less Than Five Days Absent” banner reminding children, parents, and families that #EveryDayCounts when going to school.
The girl with the beautiful smile and her dad were waiting to get their dental work done; she was playing in the chairs, smiling, happy to be there. She wasn’t more than three years old, and when I sat down with her to read a book in Spanish and English, The Weather/El tiempo, she never stopped smiling, repeating the words I read or pointing at the illustrations and the colors.
“¡Qué niña más lista!” I told her and her dad. What a clever girl. We were talking about the drawings, the colors, the characters, the objects… her dad was engaged as well. He kept on asking her questions, teaching her, communicating with her, using many of the tips we have in our Family Guide. “We do this at home,” he said, and it was obvious that books were part of this little girl’s life, which brought that beautiful smile to her tiny face: she couldn’t get enough of them.
We met many kids like her. Children excited to get books, going through the shelves looking for the one they loved the most, sitting on our ABC carpet, opening them in awe, going through the pages, reading with their fingers and pointing at the words. These little ones were engaged and immersed in the stories. We met many parents like him — caring and interested. Some stayed close by in case their children needed them. Some of the parents went through the books with their children, checking that the books were age-appropriate, but also looking for the books their children would enjoy.
This was SCGLR’s fourth year participating in RAM. Four years of interacting with families and children — helping them to develop the love of reading. Four years of seeing our community grow with us and building an understanding on the importance of family engagement. Four years of hearing heartwarming stories of people traveling long distances and getting up in the very early hours of the morning to receive the care they need. Four years of bringing resources to our community, books that bring out smiles like the one on this little girl’s face. Four years of making an impact in the lives of families.