Read Across America

This week, like all weeks lately, is jam packed with things to do. Work is crazy right now, the kids have a million activities, and I need to do piles of laundry. So when my friend called and asked if I was still coming to read to her 4th grade class for Read Across America, I said I couldn’t because I was way too busy.

And then I thought about her and her class. She teaches at a terribly underfunded school near Los Angeles. She has a large class and no teacher’s aide or other support. Even though she has her own children and laundry to do, that doesn’t keep her from volunteering at the school during her time off. She does the job of several people for not a lot of money. I called her back and said of course I would read to the class.

I’ve been to the school before, but on Thursday I was struck by the differences between my kids’ school and the elementary school where my friend teaches. It’s similar in that it’s cute with sweet kids running around, but unfortunately that’s where the similarities end.

Her school is mostly Latino in a low-income neighborhood. My kids are also Latino, half Mexican-American, but their educational experience could not be more different. My kids’ school is public, but it’s a charter school in a neighborhood where parents have the resources to donate time and hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to fund a PE teacher, Librarian, Art teacher, classroom aides, and countless other programs. Parent volunteers are at the school every day. At my friend’s school, I’m told there are only a handful of parent volunteers and my friend runs most of the PTA fundraisers on her time off.

Because the parents at my kids’ school have more resources, they have more time, money, and control over their lives to support the things that are important to them like their child’s education. I know that it’s hard for parents who are struggling to make ends meet to volunteer at school or sit and do homework with kids when they are working more than one job to support their family.

It angers me that we have such a distorted balance of money and tax dollars in our communities and educational system. But it’s everyone’s responsibility to be involved in the lives of children. And I mean everyone, in whatever way they can.

In fact, after I agreed to read to the kids, I learned that Univision is attempting to make a difference in Latino children’s education. It has created the Es El Momento campaign to “create a college bound culture.” One of the goals is to get parents more involved. Well, this parent is going to try to be more involved.

Reading a book to a class full of kids didn’t change their lives, but I think it was fun for them to have an adult they didn’t know come in and talk to them. They are studying earthquakes so I read “The Earth-Shaking Facts About Earthquakes with Max Axiom Super Scientist.” It’s a graphic novel with great artwork and a lot of information.

They were really engaged and asked thoughtful questions. I hope that because the book talked about science in a different way they will remember it. And I hope that I remember that all kids are important, not just my own.

While I volunteered all on my own, this post was sponsored by Latinos in Social Media.