Free books boost kindergartners’ confidence

See who came along to help with a book giveaway at Mill Park Elementary School, on the first day of school …

David Douglas School District Superintendent Don Grotting and Mill Park Elementary Principal Rolando Florez both say they’re almost as excited as the students on this, the first day of school.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Covering back-to-school day continues to be an East Portland News tradition – but the events of September 4 at outer East Portland’s Mill Park Elementary School, on SE 117th Avenue in the Mill Park Neighborhood, was truly unique.

“This is one of the most exciting days of the year,” Principal Rolando Florez said, while standing just outside the school watching the kids come in.

“There’s a lot of confusion, a bit of anxiety – but in the end, there are a lot of more smiles than anything else,” Florez added.

David Douglas School District Superintendent Don Grotting was also on hand. “Isn’t it great, seeing all these kids here, ready to learn?” he commented. “And, we’re excited to have Mayor Sam Adams coming here this morning, to help give a lot of books to a lot of our kids.”

Portland Mayor Sam Adams signs in and is about to receive his “Visitor” sticker.

Even though he’s the Portland’s Mayor, Sam Adams “signed in” – as all adults visiting a school are required to do – and put on a “Visitor” badge as he entered the building.

“I’ve come today to show support for the great work at this elementary school, and at the David Douglas School District in general,” Adams said. “They’re doing a great job.”

Mill Park parent Leslie Catabay greets Mayor Sam Adams as he comes down the hallway with Principal Florez.

As they walked the hallways, passing one classroom after another, Florez told Adams their challenges are twofold:

Helping children who speak 26 different languages at home become able to learn in a primarily English-speaking society, and,

In the neighborhoods from which the children come, “their families, in many cases, are primarily involved in surviving, at the basic level”.

The trove of books given away at this mid-County school came from Children’s Book Bank, explained Dan McCue, the school district’s spokesperson. “They select high-need school in the Portland area, and donate books to them.”

We learned that the Children’s Book Bank is a Portland-based nonprofit organization that provides a place for families to donate the books their children have outgrown.

Anticipation mounts, as school and City officials come into the book distribution area.

Mayor Adams helps a young student pick out books she might enjoy reading.

On stage in the cafetorium, students and their teachers looked excited as Florez arrived and said, “All of us here, including Mayor Sam Adams, will help you select books to take home and read.”

Taking a break from helping young students select books, Adams remarked, “We worked with the Children’s Book Bank to get books in the hands of elementary school kids. I am also here to underscore the importance of reading.

“Also, let me take this opportunity,” Adams continued, “to thank the books’ donors for giving hundreds and thousands of books that will now be given to elementary school students throughout the city.”

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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