Reading volunteers are ‘Fantastic Four’

Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee reads to a group of Gilroy elementary students. By Bryce Stoepfel.

Not all superheros wear capes, and for the middle schoolers at Luigi Aprea Elementary School: those wearing suit coats and police blue are super enough.

On Jan.10, the Library Literacy Committee hosted “Read With a Local Super Hero,” where Gilroy leaders including Mayor Roland Velasco, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee, Councilmember Fred Tovar and Gilroy Chamber of Commerce President Mark Turner volunteered to read to groups more than 40 Gilroy elementary students.

“We wanted to put together a fun and free event for students who may struggle with reading and writing to show them that reading can be fun,” said Kathy Souza, a member of the Library Literacy Committee. “Not only can teachers and parents turn kids on to reading, but so can members of the community. We thought we would just get a few volunteers, but when we told them what it was for—they all said yes.”

“Read With a Local Super Hero,” was the second of three Literacy Nights sponsored by the Library Literacy Committee. The first event of the series, “How to Read to your Child,” held on Sept. 19, kicked off the first of three events designed to help promote reading in Gilroy schools. To help celebrate poetry month, “Poetry Night,” will be held on Apr. 19 at Luigi Aprea Elementary School.

With help from teachers, who reminded students that the event would count towards their assignment to read 20 minutes a night, the inaugural event exceeded expectations.

“We’re reading books that tie into community and environmental awareness along with books about Martin Luther King Jr.,” Souza said. “We wanted to read books that help to make their community that much more special.”

Books such as “Notes for Living on Planet Earth,” by Oliver Jeffers, “Odd Boy Our,” a picture book about the life of Albert Einstein by Don Brown and “We All Are Wonders,” by R.J. Palacio were among the books read by the volunteers. Police Chief Smithee read the picture book version of “It Takes a Village,” by Hillary Clinton for a dozen kids while he wore a plastic fireman’s hat.
“We invited about 700 students, but with the holiday just having past and it being in the middle of cold and flu season, we only expected about 30 kids to show up,” Souza said. “We exceeded our attendance expectations tonight.”

Some of the city’s other superheroes, the Gilroy Fire Department, who were going to bring a fire truck to the school couldn’t make it that nightt. Their superpowers were needed elsewhere as they were responding to an emergency.

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