Gift of books encourages students to keep reading
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Jul 05, 2013 | 2466 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Reading program
Rising sixth-grader Preston Vo reads his copy of "The Sea of Monsters," the second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, at the Villalovoz Boys and Girls Club at South/West Park Elementary School. That book and others was given to children in the program through First Book, a nationwide nonprofit.  Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
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The fate of a popular children’s book hero, Percy Jackson, came to life recently for a group of boys and girls as they read from novels about the character given to participants in the Tracy Boys and Girls Clubs summer program.

The books came to Tracy through a program coordinated by First Book, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C.

More than 1,400 books were handed out in Tracy to encourage the students — including rising sixth-grader Jack Griffith — to read more during the summer months.

Jack had just finished reading part of “The Sea of Monsters” by Rick Riordan with his Villalovoz classmates on June 25.

“It’s a great opportunity to get free books, and we can learn more,” he said. “When you read a book, it gives you smarts and keeps your brain active, so we’ll be prepared for when we go back (to school).”

Julia Hornaday, spokeswoman for First Book, said the books were purchased by Stockton-based C&S Wholesale Grocers, and each child received two or three books. She said the goal was to help students keep the reading level they achieved during the previous school year.

Hornaday said it was the group’s first distribution of books in Tracy. First Book chose the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tracy because C&S Wholesale Grocers wanted to give books to children within 20 miles of its Stockton headquarters.

“Summer reading loss is commonly known as summer slide,” she said. “If they’re not reading over the summer and they do not have the tools to do so, they might come back not quite ready for school.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tracy has groups at several city schools and its headquarters in the Richard O. Hastie Clubhouse next to Monte Vista Middle School.

First Book gave 227 books to McKinley Elementary School; 265 to Central Elementary School; 475 to North School; 200 to Villalovoz Elementary School; and 285 to the main clubhouse on Lowell Avenue.

Kelly Wilson, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Tracy, said the students are enjoying their books.

“We got so many books, it was awesome,” she said. “Donations like this mean a lot. We don’t get that opportunity very often — books are expensive.”

Children were given the choice to take some books home to share with their siblings, while some remained at the club sites to be used on a daily basis.

Club directors chose books based on the age and reading level of their students.

Villalovoz coordinator Jordan Durrance said he wanted to choose books that could be enjoyed together by multiple children.

Durrance picked the second book in the popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series because local students typically learn about Greek mythology as sixth-graders.

“It encourages them to get involved in the reading program,” he said. “I knew this would get their attention.”

After they finish the book, he said he plans to take them to see a film based on the story, which opens in August.

Students in Manteca, Ripon, Stockton and Modesto also received 6,048 books.

Children received Food 4 Thought supplemental groceries at the same giveaway locations from Second Harvest Food Bank of San Joaquin & Stanislaus Counties.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or

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