Zuleyma Peña and Maria Barlis read to CIANA's Elementary After School Tutoring Program students. Astoria, NY. Photo: Maria Eliades
CIANA had its first Read-In, a monthly event where the organization welcomes local elected officials and community members to read immigration and diversity-focused stories to students in the Elementary After School Tutoring Program, on March 26th. The event featured Maria Barlis and Zuleyma Peña, who are the scheduler and district director for Senator Jessica Ramos.
Jeffrey Vides-Urrutia, an intern at CIANA, established the series when he saw that there were few figures in mainstream media that immigrant children could identify with. He knew that there were far more relatable figures to explore within books and storytelling.
“Literature allows children to better understand their homes and their surrounding community,” Vides-Urrutia says. “Unfortunately, children’s literature has pushed away narratives celebrating diversity written by authors from marginalized communities. In order to make positive impacts, children need to see themselves and people of different backgrounds as protagonists who work hard, save the day, and overcome obstacles.”
Since CIANA encourages child empowerment through education, Jeffrey thought that a series that fostered literacy and cultural identity was a perfect fit with CIANA’s mission. By having elected officials read diversity-focused stories to students, Jeffrey hopes that children can relate to the officials, and will ultimately feel driven to read more through characters like them, expanding their knowledge and curiosity.
Students responding to the Read-In in the CIANA Book Nook. Astoria, NY. Photo: Maria Eliades
The Read-In is hosted in the CIANA Book Nook, made possible by the generous support of donors to the Read to Succeed fundraiser. This past fundraiser increased the number and variety of culturally diverse books in CIANA’s library, including books like Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos and Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey.
On April 16th, CIANA expects to welcome Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz as its second reader in the series. The organization will announce further dates and readers for the series in the coming weeks.