Dads read to kids at “Donuts with Dads” event

By Claire Pires

Listen to an audio by Annenberg Radio News

About 150 dads, policemen, and mentors grabbed donuts and a book today to read to kids for the 5th Annual “Donuts with Dads” event at 99th Street Elementary School in South L.A.’s Watts neighborhood. image

“Almost 80% of the students at this school did not have a father or a father-figure in the homes or in their minds on a daily basis,” said Principal Courtney Sawyer of the school five years ago. “We came together to come up with a program to not only create parental involvement but to bring positive male role models into our children’s lives and that’s really where the idea of “Donuts with Dads” came from,” said Sawyer.

“Donuts with Dads” began five years ago and since this program and other family-included programs began, parent participation has grown from 20% five years ago to 90% currently.

“I talk to my kids about the urgency of education and hopefully they can continue on this path and go to college…maybe USC,” said father of two Noel Ramirez.

As student’s dads and other mentors read in both Spanish and English, students beamed in their colorful classrooms, and one student even claimed school is more fun than recess.

The school sits off of Century Blvd. in South L.A.’s Watts neighborhood, and they have struggled to improve their school, but the test scores show that events like “Donuts with Dads” provide a significant improvement.

“It’s a school we believe this year is gonna be above 800 in the API for the state,” said CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools Marshall Tuck as he referred to the Academic Performance Index, which refers to the growth of schools based on their academic performance and other academic measures.”To have this happen in a few years in the heart of Watts is a phenomenal thing,” said Tuck.

imageOn the first Friday of every month, parents come to the school from 8:00-8:30am to read to the kids and encourage literacy, and they have instilled other events such as “Muffins with Moms,” to increase parental involvement.

Muffled reading in various languages echoed from the classrooms of the elementary school as students and their dads took turns reading aloud amidst the waft of donuts and the sound of pages turning.

New organization provides academic resources to locals

By Josanta Gray
Associate Editor

SOLID USC, Students Organizing for Literacy, Inclusion and Diversity, is looking for youth to participate in their first annual conference on February 16, 2013. image

“The SOLID Steps to College Conference is an opportunity for me to provide my hometown community with resources that were missing from my educational career. It is my hope that this conference will not only empower the youth who attend but encourage them to purse education at vast levels of the university system,” said Jacqueline Jackson, the vice president of SOLID USC.

USC Students Rikiesha Pierce and Jackson created SOLID in response to the current state of education in the United States and with the intention of decreasing disparities in education amongst minorities.

The SOLID USC conference will be run by a large group of undergraduate and graduate students on Trousdale Parkway beginning at 8am. The event will include a host of workshops, panel discussions and cultural shows for youth in both junior high and high school to enjoy.

Representatives of SOLID USC are excited that the day long event will connect those with a recognized need for academic resources in South Los Angeles to the USC community.

Youth between the grades 7-12 grade are encouraged to preregister for the event using an online form at!form/cvls.

Jumpstart aims to break reading record and promote early childhood education

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News


Every year on the same day millions of children hear the same book all across the globe.This year the group is reading Llama Llama Red Pajama, a book about a baby lama getting scared after going to bed.

Though it may sound frivolous, there is serious message behind the storybook tale. It is part of Jumpstart’s “Read for the Record” campaign and it calls for an end to early education achievement gap.

Jumpstarts’ Senior Program Director Atalaya Sergi says that the campaign is an opportunity to share with a national audience ways to address disparities in early childhood education such as, “the importance of literacy and not only reading with children but spending time in conversation and building their literacy skills.”

According to Jumpstart, low-income kids, such as many areas in South LA, are at risk of school failure before they start kindergarten.Jumpstart anticipates reading to 2 million children today.

Since 2006, Jumpstart has read with more than 5 million children and raised $6.2 million.

Leimert Park Village Book Fair Draws 5,000+ Guests


When Terry Webb penned some 800 poems decades ago, amidst a life of drugs and crime, his publishing plans didn’t extend beyond mailing them home from prison.

“During that time I would write, and I would send them to my mother,” said Webb, a Watts resident who now works as a security guard and substance abuse counselor. “God has opened the door for me to now put this material out.”

Webb was one of more than 200 authors and artists featured at the fifth annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair on Saturday, an all-day event of literary stage performances, panel discussions, readings, workshops and vendors. More than 5,000 guests strolled through the fair among such presenters as Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson and former Essence Magazine editor-in-chief Susan L. Taylor.

“We were waiting and praying to get into the book fair,” said Webb, who missed the deadline to apply for a booth and was told that he might get a spot if he showed up ready to go. “We didn’t think we’d get in.”

Hours before the fair opened, Webb waited—and prayed—with his family alongside copies of his debut book, “Poetry to God, Volume I: Lord, Please Hear the Cry,” a collection of 208 poems. Eventually, he was invited to share a booth with another author, and within an hour, he had made a sale.

“What I hope to get out of this is exposure,” said Webb. “Knowing that I’ve touched the hearts and lives of anyone who’s come in contact with this book is enough.”

In February, Webb self-published his book through Trafford Publishing and has sold about half of the 300 printed copies. It is also available electronically through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and he has three more volumes in the works.


“I think the selling part is a bonus behind it,” said Eric Brasley, an event volunteer and founder of Books of Soul, a promotional website for African American literature. “The real piece I think is just being able to share your work and interact with other people.”

Some new authors have become regulars at the book fair, such as Wilma Blair-Reed, who has attended since 2007. A retired social worker, Blair-Reed said her biggest goal is to connect with readers through life lessons.


“There’s a purpose to my writing besides entertainment,” said Blair-Reed. “Of course you have to have entertainment in there. I love to do my little page-turning things,” she said about the plot in “The Color of Hate,” a murder-mystery set in the 1960s that deals with racism, adultery and other real-life inspired challenges.

Now on her third book, Blair-Reed says all of her writing contains a simple message: “Life happens. What you get out of it, it’s typically up to you.”

Photos by Lisa Rau

Adults overcome life without words at Centro Latino for Literacy

image In a bright blue classroom on MacArthur Park’s busy 8th street, Maria Hernandez is ready to learn. She has found a seat in the front row. Her books are neatly gathered on her desk, and she listens intently to her teacher’s instructions. Her teacher, Mr. Jorge, writes a sentence on the board.

With her red pen in hand, Hernandez copies the sentence down in her workbook. She is a model student and a grandmother — who came to the United States from El Salvador. Her whole life, Hernandez never knew how to read a word or even write her address.

“In my country, I couldn’t study. We lived in the countryside and the schools were very far. And because we needed to work, there wasn’t time for us to be sent so far to school,” says Hernandez in Spanish.

She was resourceful, like many newcomers to the U.S., and found a job at a restaurant where she worked for five years. But when new owners wanted her to take food orders, she couldn’t and the owners fired her.

Everyday hundreds of thousands of immigrants, most from Latin America, go to work in the gardens, restaurants and homes of Los Angeles. But an estimated 200,000 of them navigate the sprawling metropolis unable to read. Approaching its 20th year anniversary, Centro Latino for Literacy has been trying to change the reality illiterate immigrants face.

“We see ourselves as bridging that gap between the preliterate and English,” says Veronica Flores-Malagon, the programs manager at the nonprofit where Hernandez is studying.

When students first come to Centro Latino for Literacy they don’t learn English. They learn to read and write in Spanish. Illiterate Spanish-speakers often want to dive into English courses, but if they are unable to read in their own language they get left behind, says Flores Malagon.

“To advance in English, you have to have a strong foundation in your own language,” she says.

More than 3,000 students have gone through Centro Latino for Literacy courses. Most of those students are women.

“The root cause is poverty,” says Flores-Malagon. Illiteracy is more prevalent among women because large families often will only send the men to school, she adds.

The center offers two basic literacy classes. The first is a 100 hour computer-based program called Leamos, translated “We Read,” which can be completed from anywhere with internet access.

Once students pass that class they move onto Listos Functional, a lecture style course, which prepares students with skills like spelling, reading directions and buying groceries.

“They learn all these functional things you and I do everyday and we don’t even think about, like how does math and literacy factor into these everyday duties,” says Flores-Malagon.

Those everyday duties are challenging, even in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods. Many illiterate Latinos are ashamed to even tell relatives they can’t read or write.

“We want to help them develop self-esteem so they can help themselves, because we are just the vehicle and all the talents and motivations lie in the students,” says Flores-Malagon.

Most students are motivated to finish the courses because they want to learn English. It’s the number one reasons students come to the center. Hernandez says that’s her goal.

“Now when I finish this class, when I know all the letters in the alphabet, I’m going to study English, because I love English,” says Hernandez.

She’s taking her desire to learn to the streets. Hernandez is part of a group of students at the center called, promotores, who go out into the community and share information about the center.

“Sometimes I see people who are like how I was before. And so, I invite them and tell them, ‘let’s go,’ ” says Hernandez. “It’s beautiful because when you know a little bit, it gives you the will to keep studying.”

Here’s how you can get involved at Centro Latino for Literacy. Visit the website at or on Facebook or call their main line at 213-483-7753.