Down in the Valley: Reading Rock Stars Recap

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First and second grade students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary stand in line thumbing through their brand new books.  Students were just handed their very own autographed copy of I Pledge Allegiance by the authors, Libby Martinez and Pat Mora.  The kids point at the illustrations and chat with their neighbors about the book. There is a sense of commotion and excitement.  Smiles are abundant.

One girl stayed silent and kept to herself, hugging her book. She would only release her grasp to peek at the cover and then immediately bring it back to her chest and squeeze it again. Intrigued, I walked over and kneeled down to talk to her.

IMG_2044“Did you like the author presentations?”

She flashes me a shy, closed smile and nods her head furiously. She continues to clasp the book tightly to her chest.

“Do you like your brand new book?”

Again, she flashes me a smile, bigger this time. She nods again excitedly. The book stays fixed in her embrace.

“Did you know that book is autographed just for you? It’s yours forever and ever!” I say.

This time, she can’t resist. She gives me a full-on grin, teeth and all. She loosens the book from her grip to open to the autograph. IMG_2043

“It’s time to go!” her teacher says. The students file out and she leaves beaming.

Since 2008, the Texas Book Festival has partnered with UTPA to bring the Reading Rock Stars program to Title I schools in the Rio Grande Valley. Reading Rock Stars bring books to life by supplying author or illustrator visits and a brand new, autographed book for every student. The Texas Book Festival has given close to 30,000 books to students in the Rio Grande Valley. Including the Valley region, the Texas Book Festival has given a total of 64,176 books to date, reaching kids across Texas.

This year the Texas Book Festival brought six authors to the Rio Grande Valley on March 5th and 6th. During those two days, 2,849 children received books from the program.


IMG_1971Author René Saldaña  Jr. and illustrator Carolyn Dee Flores

presented picture book Dale, Dale, Dale: Una fiesta de números/ Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers to PreK and Kindergarten students. Students and teachers decorated their classroom doors to match the counting pages of the book.

Saldaña also presented his latest book in his mystery series, The Mystery of the Mischievous Marker to 4th and 5th grade students.







Author Lydia Gil presented her chapter book Cartas del  Cielo/ Letters from Heaven to 3rd-5th grades. Students made strong connections to the story and wrote their own letters, inspired by the book.


Dalia's wondrous hairAuthor and illustrator Laura Lacámara presented her picture book Dalia’s Wondrous Hair to Prek-3rd grade. Students and teachers made Lacámara’s character beautiful illustrations come to life through their inventive displays.






Mother/Daughter duo Pat Mora and Libby Martinez presented their children’s book I Pledge Allegiance, about Mora’s aunt and Martinez’s great aunt gaining U.S. citizenship. Watch the short video below to hear what Martinez had to say about her experience with the Reading Rock Stars program in the Valley.

See media coverage of Reading Rock Stars in the Rio Grande Valley here and here. If you are interested in making a contribution to Reading Rock Stars click here.