EDINBURG — Growing up, Jonathon Vasquez was not an avid reader. He viewed reading as a chore when he was a child. Still, there was one book that left a lasting impact on him.
“When I was growing up, I wasn’t much of a reader,” said Vasquez, who now serves as associate director for South Texas Literacy Coalition. “The one book I do remember reading when I was a young kid that affected me and that I have read more than a couple of times is, ‘Where the Red Fern Grows.’ That was one of the very few books that I grew up reading. Now as an adult, I am an avid reader. I try to read as much as possible.”
Vasquez and his organization, in partnership with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, hosted a Holiday Book Drive-Thru Giveaway on Monday at Bert Ogden Arena hoping to instill a passion for reading in kids.
“Everything that we do as far as books, we try to create a positive, engaging and fun environment where the child doesn’t see reading as a task,” Vasquez said. “Take myself for example. I wasn’t much of a reader. I saw it as a task and it just wasn’t something fun to me growing up. I’m trying to affect kids like me and create the change in their lives where they don’t see books as a task or homework and something negative. Instead, we want them to see it as something enjoyable. Just developing a positive environment for these kids through these giveaways, that’s our goal.”
Through the giveaway, the South Texas Literacy Coalition aimed to give more than 5,000 books to about 1,500 children under the age of 18. Each child attending the giveaway was gifted up to five books to take home and start their own personal library.
Hondo Candelaria, vice president of both the Vipers and the Toros, agreed to partner with South Texas Literacy Coalition for the book giveaway when presented with the idea.
“Through the pandemic we’ve been able to do a bunch of things, from canned food drives, food distribution at the food bank and COVID testing,” Candelaria said. “So, this is to help the kids and being at home, it’s been great. We jumped at it right away when South Texas Coalition came to us with this idea.”
The Vipers and Toros organizations have remained active within the community throughout the pandemic. Earlier in the day, the Vipers visited Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, where they gave six $100 gift cards to nurses employed at the facility in partnership with Academy Sports and Outdoors.
“That was one of the other things that we’ve done to, I guess, ‘extend the olive branch,’ Candelaria said. “Earlier last month we did, with our veterans, we did a thing at Kickin’ Axes with them. We gave them food and an opportunity to go out and do some stress relieving I guess you can say.”
RGV Toros community relations manager April Aguilar, who said she is a passionate book reader, was glad to be a part of an event that aims to promote reading in the community.
“Besides the fact that it’s (reading) super important, I think especially now during the pandemic a lot of these kids are doing Zoom and they can find that sometimes it can be hard to stay focused and so forth,” Aguilar said. “I feel like reading allows kids to practice how to stay focused. Why? Because they have to learn how to stay engaged in the book. That’s one thing I like about books. It kind of takes you into another realm. So, to be able to share that with kids who perhaps don’t have access to a library right now or can’t check out books at their school, what better reason to do something like this?”