Read Across America brings literature to kids


Fitzgerald Graves

Grandma Whoople having a bit of fun before the CAPK Read Across America ceremony ends.

Fitzgerald Graves, Reporter

Read Across America is a national event that the Community Action of Partnership of Kern (CAPK) takes part in annually. And on March 1, 2018 CAPK Volunteers and staff convened at the Four-Points-Sheraton to celebrate their participation in this national event known as Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The goal of this event is to have various volunteers visit Early Head Start facilities through out Kern County and read to the children attending these programs.

The Read Across America breakfast in Bakersfield was opened up by Leslie Mitchell, Administrator of Education & Support Services, and following a short video Head-start director, Yolanda Gonzalez, shared her thanks to the employees and volunteers for all efforts put forth to make the Head-start programs throughout Kern County a huge success. She said, “Children are working…. We are not baby sitters we are not just there taking care of children we are also teaching them skills and literacy.” Gonzalez went on to quote Dr. Seuss, “The more you read the more you know the more you know the more places you will go….”

Jeremy Tobias, Chief Executive Officer of CAPK, along with other administrators such as Carolyn Coffey, Education Coordinator, took this opportunity to acknowledge and show appreciation to many of the Community Action Partnership of Kern employees and volunteers. Tobias said, “Community service is a very important part to making America great. For the new volunteers it’s like chicken soup for the soul. And get ready to enter the Rockstar zone. Giving back is part of our America fabric and volunteering is a big part of that.”

Lyndon Johnson is credited for the birth of head-start in his 1964 Revenue Act and Economic Opportunity Act policy to combat the war on poverty. In an effort to change the current landscape this policy was enacted to give children who were identified as impoverished aa pathway to avoid the illiteracy trap perpetuated by poverty.  Many head-start programs historically depended immensely on parents and volunteers. With funding allocated by congress families have been able to break the cycle of poverty through the power of literacy.

Many of the volunteers attending had participated in Read Across America in previous years were given the opportunity to share their experiences. Casey McBride and Danny Morrison, who are local radio personalities in Bakersfield. McBride said, “One of the reasons I’m volunteering is because I have the time the other is, my brother was in one of the first head-start programs in Lamont and its important,”

Morrison informed the audience that he has participated for 4 years. “I’m a product of Head Start”, he said, crediting his mother’s love of education was the motivating factor the led her to enroll Morrison in a head start program as the attendees applauded. “What are you clapping for?” he asks “Don’t clap for me, Clap for my mom” he said, jokingly, “Northing warms the heart more than making a child smile” you will feel like a Rockstar with the love you will receive from the children that you read for today.”

Fitzgerald Graves
Moises Gonzalez and his younger brother Abraham show off the books they chose to resd at their selected head-start site.

Brothers Moises and Abraham Gonzalez, students at Garces Memorial were expressed their excitement to be in attendance. Abraham, who is a freshman, was participating for the first time said, “This is my first year doing it and I look forward to doing it.” His brother Moises said, “It’s my third time doing it and I’m just excited to read to the kids.”

Retired school teacher of 34 years for the Bakersfield City School District, Katherine Jordan, who emanated the character Grandma Whoople, began the Grandma Whoople two-months after retirement in 2013, to combat the high rate of illiteracy identified in areas of Kern County-Bakersfield. She was awarded the Bakersfield Beautiful award for active adult. “It was like receiving the Oscar” she said. “I was honored to receive this award, because of all the hard work that we had done to change the literacy rating in Bakersfield.” As a former Pre-K teacher who graduated from high school at 16, attended Bakersfield College, California Baptist College, CSUB, and National University, her passion to expand literature and change the trajectory of vulnerable youth led to her read at various libraries, elementary schools, parks, churches and head-start programs throughout Kern County.

Head-start programs connection to Read Across America has an impact on all who participate in them. The fundamental curriculum provided by the program focuses on literacy, critical thinking, and nutrition  to such a high degree that children who participate in these programs have been documented to have greater development socially, emotionally, and academically, based on the National Head Start Association ( Volunteering for programs and organizations that engage these communities in an effort to create positive change, could change; a life, a community, a city, a nation, or the World.