Libros y Raíces (Books and Roots) was born out of a need Corazón Healdsburg saw for a local literacy program. The program provides bilingual reading to families and children as well as hands-on activities to make it fun.

On Friday, Nov. 19, families gathered at the Healdsburg Community Center to hear the story called “Todos A Comer,” which translates to “everyone come eat.” At the same time, families were given hot chocolate, pan dulce and atole, a traditional beverage in Mexican cuisine made from masa.

Lizbeth Perez, coordinator for programs and support for parents for Corazón Healdsburg, said the reading program is planned to happen once a month for a total of 10 months. Friday’s event was the second in the series. The intention is to create a love for reading and create a habit of reading at home with children.

“There is no better way than motivating parents first who read to them,” Perez said in Spanish.

The idea originated from another program called Kinder 2 College which Perez also helps coordinate. Kinder 2 College provides savings funds for children from Healdsburg and Geyserville to go to college. Perez said while working on that program she noticed some families were doubting their children would be successful in college.

“You start those conversations about why they think they (their kids) won't make it and many of them said their worries are they only went to elementary school, so they might not be able to bring those experiences to their children,” Perez said.

Libros y Raíces sets out to “support parents who primarily speak Spanish and make them feel comfortable with bilingual reading, create a habit and show them it does not matter what academic level you are in, you can read to them at home,” she said.

The program was projected to have 60 children, but that night 77 arrived. There is now a waitlist and the team is working on making sure COVID-19 guidelines are being followed. Perez said it was a good sign, meaning the community is interested.

“This might be their only program they are participating in when it comes to reading,” she said.

Marcy Flores, associate director of academic development for Corazón, said everyone is welcome from all ages.

“We have hands-on activities and we focus on one of the five senses. We bring the families together, we make sure to have food so, as you can see, we have abundance. Every event that we have for the reading program is bilingual, and it includes the parents, everyone from ages zero to high school, so everyone is welcome,” Flores said.

“We really just want to cultivate the love for reading which will then translate into reading literacy when they get to elementary school and then hopefully create a foundation for their education and their academic development,” she said.

Children and their parents were also given atole and piñata making kits. The next event will allow them to decorate their piñata.

Veronica Ledesma has been to the program twice and said she loves all the activities offered. Ledesma has three children but brings her youngest daughters to provide something different from their usual routine. The first time they attended they decorated a pumpkin which she believed was a great hands on activity.

“Thank you to Corazón Healdsburg for everything they do, the activities are great for children and for us too. It relieves stress for me to get out of my house and spend time with my daughters,” Ledesma said in Spanish.

“It's great they read to them in both languages because they listen to both and listen to a great story at the same time,” she said.

Ledesma's daughter Sofia, 6, said she likes to attend because she likes doing activities and reading.

Carmen Candelario, who has two children, has also attended the program twice. A friend of hers saw it on Facebook and they decided to attend in October.

“It is interesting and they can learn new things instead of watching TV. They love to read stories and if there were classes for both languages it would be great. We are very happy with these programs,” Candelario said, speaking Spanish.

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Elsa Cavazos is a Latina journalist originally from Texas who will be covering social justice issues in Sonoma County. Cavazos' favorite things to write about are feminist and social justice issues. She loves leopard print, anything pink and reading.

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