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Books are free, and McKinley students indulge

March 01, 2002|By JENNIFER-RALTON SMITH, Staff Writer

What could be better than sitting in the sun with free juice and cookies?

If Wednesday morning you'd put that question to the children who attend McKinley Elementary School in El Centro, they would have answered "sitting in the sun with free juice and cookies — and a free book."

Thanks to the efforts of the Reading is Fundamental literacy program and a generous financial gift from General Dynamics Land Systems-Imperial Valley Operations, all 480 McKinley students had the chance Wednesday to choose a book from a large selection spread out on tables in the school cafeteria. General Dynamics also provided the students with juice and cookies.

"I like it that I get to keep this book and take it home," was the smiling comment from 5-year-old kindergartner Anna Rodriguez as she stood in line, waiting to select one of the large kid-size cookies offered. Anna had chosen a book from the ever-popular Clifford series by children's author Norman Bridwell.


Luz Marquez, McKinley coordinator for the RIF program and third-grade teacher at the school, said this year she and a group of parents and staff members selected some 1,000 titles for the children to choose from. Adding that she had a few hundred books left from last year's RIF program, Marquez said she had enough books for "each child to receive a free book three times a year."

Standing back and watching her young charges excitedly comparing notes on their choices, kindergarten teacher Esther Green spoke of the importance of the RIF program.

"It's nice to teach the kids that books can also be a ‘gift' — it's not just getting toys all the time … it's a gift and the gift of reading is the best gift to have."

Eight-year-old second-grader Andrew Dunn took the task of choosing a book seriously. Studying the choices available in his reading range, he first reached for a book about a flying cat, then returned it in favor of a book with a distinctly Halloween theme. After careful consideration, he returned the Halloween book to the pile, tucked a book on turtles under his arm and disappeared in the direction of the cookies and juice.

Asked about his favorite part of the deal, Andrew, with a large mouthful of chocolate cookie, was emphatic that it was "getting a book 'cause I like reading."

Observing the children clearly enjoying the process of selecting a good read, Juan Garza, human resources representative for General Dynamics, said his company sees participation in programs such as RIF as a way of "giving back to the community … giving something to the children that is going to benefit them through life."

Garza said his company provides the same financial support for the RIF program at Ben Hulse and T.L. Waggoner elementary schools in Imperial.

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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