More than 4,000 copies of the bilingual children’s book, “Charles Reads/Carlos Lee,” will get into the hands of first graders around the state, thanks to a partnership between New Mexico owner-operators of McDonald’s restaurants and the state Public Education Department.
The initiative, now in its second year, was kicked off Wednesday at the McDonald’s restaurant at 1523 4th Street SW, with the book’s author, Cameron Bourg, reading to about 35 youngsters from nearby Dolores Gonzales Elementary School, and conducting a read-along with the students.
Also present was PED Secretary-designate Kurt Steinhaus.
“I came today in support of the PED’s Year of Literacy theme, and because it gives me a chance to say thank you to our teachers,” Steinhaus said. “They are our heroes. They get up every day, put on their masks, and they’re making education happen in our schools today.”
An event like the Wednesday book reading and giveaway is a good way to get books into the hands of kids and get them excited about reading, Steinhaus said. “The other thing that’s good about this is the book is bilingual, and part of the Year of Literacy is letting children learn in their home language. For some of these children, Spanish is their first language, and for some it is English. So we do both.”
Bourg, a special education teacher and literacy tutor, has written a number of children’s books, with the intention of “allowing kids to discover the joy of reading by giving them subject matter that they find interesting.”
His story, “Charles Reads,” centers on a young boy who loves to play and dress up like a superhero with a cape and gloves and resists all attempts by family members to sit down with a book and read.
That resistance dissolves when he comes across a book about superheroes:
“Then, Charles finds he reads with ease of villains falling to their knees. There are heroes drawn on every page of a book for kids just his age! Charles reads for days and days.”
At the end of each of his stories, Bourg offers a tip for parents to stimulate their kids’ interest and enjoyment for reading.
Kenric Garcia, the owner-operator of the McDonald’s where the event was held, said the number of books that will be distributed at schools this year is about twice the number that were handed out during the first year of the initiative, during pandemic free lunch programs.
Garcia said that he and the other owner-operators are small business people “who live in the community, send our children to local schools and understand the importance of supporting education and literacy.”