Thirty cyclists rolled into Roberts Elementary School Friday morning on mountain and road bikes loaded up with hundreds of books to share with the students as part of the National Ride for Reading Campaign.
Roberts students greeted the cyclists chanting “we love reading” and carrying banners thanking them for the books they were about to unload off their bike baskets and backpacks.
“It’s cool because we have a chance to get new books to read,” said Kruz Elena, a fourth grader hoping to get a “Captain Underpants” book.
“I like Junie B. Jones,” chimed in Stephanie Torres.
National Ride for Reading founder Mathew Portello started the program in 2007 in his hometown of Nashville to help get books in the hands of low-income students. He said there is only one age-appropriate book per 300 children in low-income areas.
“We’re getting books in the hands of children because they need them,” Portello said. “This excites kids about reading.”
The second component to the Ride for Reading campaign encourages exercise.
“Students get really excited seeing adults on a bike,” said Portello, a principal at a school in Nashville. “We all learned to read and ride at the same time for the most part. We want to show kids that a healthy body breeds a healthy mind and that correlates with reading.”
El Paso was among 16 cities nationwide participating in the Ride for Reading Campaign this May, which coincides with National Bike Month.
Principal Rafael Guardardo had been introduced to the Ride for Reading Campaign at as an assistant principal at Hart Elementary. He was happy to hear from Victor Cordero of Velo Paso Bike-Pedestrian Coalition, a partner in the campaign, who wanted to bring the program to Roberts.
“What trying to do is make sure books are in the house and they go home,” Guardardo said.
“When I was at Hart, we saw how excited the kids got about reading and we kept the momentum going. We appreciate them coming with these events because they do make a difference.”
Velo Paso’s goal besides increasing literacy in the city is to promote physical activity – specially walking and cycling safety.
“Did everybody notice what we were wearing when came in with our bikes?” he asked the students.
“Helmets!” they all shouted back.
“We have to protect the CPU,” Cordero said, referring to the computer term that is also a colloquialism for a human head. “If you own a bike and ride a bike, it’s important to listen to your parents and wear your helmet. Exercise keeps your brain young and active and at maximum capacity.”