Originally published November 9, 2012 at 10:17 a.m., updated November 9, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
Children, ages three to five, entered the museum in the most orderly of fashions, their faces beaming with the anticipation of what was to come. Doing as they were told by their teachers and parent chaperones, they quickly took their seats by the stage. Some folded their hands on their laps, and all quietly waited.
These children, 80 in all, had just walked from the Hickory Head Start in Escondido, to the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, just a few blocks away. They were there, along with 130 third graders from Lincoln Elementary, a Title I school, to participate in a “One Book for Kids” special event.
For the Hickory kids, this was their first trip ever to the museum, and they were eager and ready to take it all in, including a quick step outside to “ooh and ah” at the museum’s “pumpkin patch,” set up in its spacious new outdoor area.
But the reason they came to the museum was to join in a special presentation by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson, co-authors of the book, “Armando and the Blue Tarp School,” which was selected as the children’s companion book to Luis Urrea’s “Into the Beautiful North,” a 2012 One Book, One San Diego selection.
For the authors, who both live in North San Diego County, being selected for “One Book for Kids,” has meant the world to them. “We love One Book, One San Diego,” noted Fine, “And Urrea’s book is moving, funny, tender, and evocative. To have our Armando book paired with 'Into the Beautiful North,' is a real thrill.”
The festivities included a short presentation by the authors, who explained how the book is based on the true story of David Lynch and the school he created on a blue tarp, by the Tijuana city dump.
Each of the teachers received a copy of “Armando and the Blue Tarp School” for their classroom. This excited Yeny Verduzco very much. As Hickory’s inclusion facilitator, Verduzco works with children who have disabilities (there were three in attendance), and felt that the book would be a valuable resource for the Head Start program. The story is available in both English and Spanish, and most of the children attending Hickory are native Spanish speakers, learning English for the first time.
The authors were followed by a traditional Jalisco dance by students from the Academy of World Dance 'n' Arts of Poway, and a craft activity, for the children to make bright, Mexican paper flowers.
Angeles Flores, one of the Hickory Head Start teachers, was grateful for the opportunity to bring the children to the museum.
“It’s so nice for the children,” she explained. “We cannot take them on field trips that aren’t walking distance, and for the little ones to be able to come here for the first time is such a treat.”
In addition to the visit to the museum, the children, who have been at Hickory since August, have also walked to the local library. “Outings like these,” says Flores, “Help build their confidence and communication skills.”
Hickory Head Start, which is a program under the MAAC project, is a federally funded preschool, serving low-income children and their families. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, over 48% of Escondido residents identify themselves as Hispanic and over 15% live below the poverty line; both statistics are significantly above the state average.
“Offering programs like these make sense,” notes Clare Pister, coordinator for the One Book initiative. “These are the very children that KPBS and the SDCDM aim to reach with innovative educational programs such as One Book for Kids. It’s rewarding to see how excited they get about books and learning.”
Museum staff is in agreement and considers events such as these to be a great partnership with the community. “Escondido is a small town with big ideas that puts kids and education first,” adds SDCDM Executive Director, Javier Guerrero. “The museum loves working alongside amazing teachers, parents and community partners to provide a quality education for our children.”
One Book, One San Diego is a community reading program, now in its seventh year, which aims to bring San Diegans together through an enriching, locally relevant literary experience. Its counterpart, One Book for Kids, engages children ages 10 and under in a meaningful literacy-based community program.