Reading party rings in book donation to Detroit schools

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former pro boxer Oscar De La Hoya usually is not associated with warm and fuzzy.

But Thursday, the chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions read from his book, “Super Oscar” to a captivated group of third-graders from Amelia Earhart Elementary School during a reading party hosted by Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Co., in collaboration with First Book. It is part of a celebration by the two entities to donate 10,000 new books by the end of the year to nearly 100 schools in Detroit to promote literacy.

The book is in Spanish and English; De La Hoya read it in English.

Entering the room inside the Ford Resource and Engagement Center on Bagley in Detroit, he was greeting by cheers and applause from the pupils, and applause mixed with the immediate whipping out of cellphones by adults eager to capture his picture.

“Repeat after me,” he said to the children. “I am smart,” “I am a champion,” “I can do it,” “I will do it,” “I am going to do it.” “Give yourselves a round of applause.”

De La Hoya’s book is about a little boy who spends much of his time daydreaming. When he neglects to hand out a list of picnic duties to neighbors, he scampers off to buy groceries, and quickly whips up a batch of guacamole in a children’s swimming pool to make sure there’s enough for the crowd. The remainder of the book describes how he was able to pull off the picnic despite his daydreaming antics.

Fabian Garza, 8, a third-grader, was among the pupils entertained by De La Hoya’s reading.

“I liked the part in his book when he fell asleep,” said Fabian. He then joined the line of children waiting to collect their blue and white Ford bags stuffed with a copy of De La Hoya’s book and other goodies.

Before De La Hoya surprised the crowd, volunteers from Ford Motor Company Fund read “Borreguita and the Coyote” by Verna Aardema to the children.

Ford Motor Fund President Jim Vella was among the volunteer readers who stretched out on a mat while students lay on their stomachs, chins in hands, listening to the story.

He said he reads to his two grandchildren every time he sees them.

“I grew up 10 minutes from here, and attended Holy Redeemer, where the nuns drilled into us that reading was really important,” he said. “And we want the kids to know that reading is fun.”

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community and global partners to advance driving safety, education and community life. Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 65 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Co.

First Book is a nonprofit described as a social enterprise founded in 1992 that has distributed more than 150 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada.

According to a 2015 report from the Nation’s Report Card, only 7 percent of Detroit eighth-graders were proficient in reading. Nationally, research shows that in some low-income communities, there is only one book per 300 children.

The reading party was part of the Ford Driving Dreams Initiative and Ford’s overall education efforts which focuses on promoting reading at an early age. So far, the Ford Motor Company Fund has invested $161 million over 10 years in southeast Michigan.

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