Focus On Solutions

East Palo Alto program inspiring kids to read

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A number of studies show a child's early reading experience is critical to his or her lifelong reading skills. With that mind, an organization called 10 Books At Home is helping underserved kids in East Palo Alto.

Like Malcolm X, Paul Thiebaut III believes education is the passport to the future. With that in mind, the East Palo Alto resident founded 10 Books At Home.

The program is simple -- give a preschooler like Briana Soriano a bookcase, add 10 books and spark her passion for reading.

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"So that when you start grade school they are on track and they have a family that can be supportive of what they are doing and they go to succeed in school and in life," Thiebaut said.

This learning program with East Palo Alto preschoolers ages 3-5 began last year. Parents sign up for the program and children are selected through a lottery system. Once they get the materials, for the next two years, a tutor comes to their home once a week for 40 minutes at a time.

"Not just memorization; I want them to enjoy learning so when I'm not around, they'll still do it," volunteer tutor Neil Kelsey said.

Briana's mom is encouraged to continue reading at home.

"Before they just watched TV or flipped through the pages but now they're interested in what is going on; they want to know what's in the pictures," Rosa Ayala said.

The tutors undergo training and must commit to one hour a week for six months.

Briana also gets help with her writing.

So far 46 underserved kids in East Palo Alto are enrolled. The waiting list is long.

Thiebaut has a personal reason for devoting himself to this project.

"I was held back because of reading deficiency and I had a lot of trouble reading throughout school and I actually dropped out of high school," Thiebaut said.

Malcolm X's autobiography inspired Thiebaut to return to school.

The program started with the help and generosity of neighboring Palo Alto families and businesses.

Every month students are given two new books.

Now Thiebaut wants to expand the program.

"Setting up 10 Books At Home sites in cities across the state and across the United States of America," Thiebaut said.

Like Malcolm X, Thiebau believes "tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today."

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east palo alto, books, children, focus on solutions, lyanne melendez
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