Renowned Latino author Gary Soto, shared his life story, love of writing and literacy advocacy with Socorro Independent School District middle school students.
The National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., spoke to two classes of students in the main gym at Socorro High School.
“It has been a dream of mine to have him talk to our students,” said Ana Marioni, an instructional specialist in SISD’s Bilingual/ESL Education Department, who coordinated the event. “I have been teaching ESL in middle school for 19 years. I have always used his literature in class. Through his books, he speaks to my boys and girls. Remember, these are students who only have been here for one or two years. This is a new culture and new language for them.”
Soto brought boxes of his book, “Accidental Love,” to sign and give away to students and teachers. During his presentations, he relayed funny stories of his upbringing, sprinkling in Spanish expressions and phrases like he does in his books. He interacted with students, calling them down from the bleachers to portray characters in his books and asking questions about their lives and school. His main objective for the visit was to get students excited about reading.
“It is the only way to educate yourself properly,” he said. “It’s paramount to a better, deeper life. That’s why I came. I want these students to understand the importance of reading. It can change their lives.”
Throughout his career, Soto has written more than 40 books. Most are for children and young adults. His books have sold four million copies nationwide and have been translated into French, Japanese, Italian, Korean, and Spanish.
They feature Mexican-American characters and culture, especially in children’s books, such as “Accidental Love,” a young romance between a chola and a geek, and “Too Many Tamales,” a humorous story set during Christmas holidays. It is a way to get more Hispanic students reading and can help increase the number of Hispanic reading materials in libraries and bookstores, he said.
“I think Mr. Soto gives the students an opportunity to see what they can become,” said Lorena Velarde, a Capt. Walter E. Clarke Middle School social studies teacher. “He is from our culture, so students can relate. It was a wonderful presentation.”
Students Amador Avila and Victor Monsivais have read three of Soto’s books in class. They were somewhat shy about meeting the author, but they enjoy his writings.
“It’s really cool that he came here,” Monsivais said, in Spanish.
Avila agreed. “He tells good stories,” he said.
The event took place earlier this summer, for students attending the Secondary ESL Academy in June.