Soboba bookmobile inspires reading

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A young student looks over available books at Soboba Tribal Preschool during Read Across America Day Tuesday, March 2. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

Noli Indian School in San Jacinto chose national Read Across America Day to roll out its new bookmobile service for students. Noli principal Donovan Post and staff members made their way to several students’ homes Tuesday, March 2, to offer a wide selection of age-appropriate book titles.

“We only served one household at a time,” Post said. “We set up the tables next to our vehicle and used cleaning wipes and other sanitation supplies after each visit. It is a slow process to ensure safety is met but, in the end, we do get to see students again even if it is from 6 feet away.”

Noli, which serves students in grades six through 12, has benefited from a reading grant for many years allowing the school to purchase several thousand books to keep its library fresh. Jacquelin Phillips works with middle school students at Noli’s Reading Department and assisted with this year’s book purchases.

“We bought books for all ages – preschool to adults,” she said. “We wanted to make sure not just students and their siblings got books, but parents and guardians as well.”

Noli staff worked at the campus to separate books by age group and reading level so when a student requests a book through their teacher, a presorted box of books they can choose from is loaded into the vehicle for a run to their house.

“The entire staff and I believe in the importance of reading at a young age,” Post said. “It sets the tone for a young student’s success in school. If a child has difficulties reading by the fourth grade, it will carry through with them well into high school. If we can create a culture at the school where students do not fear holding books that are a lower grade level, and we have a great support system in place, we can help any student find a love of reading. This is what we have been trying to do for the past five years.”

Phillips added that literacy is important for all ages, no matter one’s reading stage.

“Literacy helps develop our reading skills, writing skills and social skills which helps us become well-rounded individuals in society,” she said.

As acting preschool director, Post took boxes of books to Soboba Tribal Preschool to help staff and students celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday, also March 2. It was the young children who got the benefit of a gift by choosing a free book to take home with them. There were also some mystery gifts they earned by playing a fishing game with teacher Amber Lopez, based on the Seuss classic: “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”

Kindergarten teacher Antonia Venegas said the bookmobile gave staff the opportunity to see their students in person and ask them questions about what they would be interested in reading. Only two families were allowed into the tabled books area at a time. The three-hour event, attended by about 50 students and their families, was part of the school’s weeklong celebration of Dr. Seuss.

Melissa Vera teaches 3-year-olds and said her favorite part of the bookmobile’s visit was seeing the children come and watch how excited they were to see all the books that were available to them.

Post said reading with children at a young age is vital.

“If we can provide great books for parents to read to their children, all the better,” he said. “It just makes for a great partnership between the school and the community that we serve.”

Read Across America, the nation’s largest celebration of reading, was launched in 1998 by the National Education Association. To learn more, visit http://www.nea.org.