By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
The club has opened a reading room at its 410 Stookey Rd. location in San Benito where members are encouraged to participate in activities designed to nurture creative thinking and embolden book-learning. Such activities are accessible via new computers funded through a $20,000 Boys and Girls Club of America grant and iPads donated by HEB – modern tools that Tommy Ramirez, Chief Executive Officer at the Darrell B. Hester Juvenile Justice Center in San Benito and former Club President, believes will help facilitate a modern learning environment.
“It’s creative thinking, logical thinking, technology driven, and what I like is how she formatted it all in a way that today’s kids love to learn,” Ramirez said of the reading room and its resident teacher. “I think that’s the difference – we’ve taken a new direction where instead of creating something the way we think it should be, we created a program that’s designed with the kids’ interests.”
“I’ve seen them with headphones on, listening to a story and completely engrossed in it,” Ramirez added.
Over 75 children are expected to participate in the reading room, or the “Learning Lab” as it’s referred to at the Club. Three age groups consisting of 5-6 year olds, 7-8 and 9-10 year olds each spend an hour in the lab taking part in interactive and educational games. The added incentive is that all who participate in the lab will earn a trip to the Lon C. Hill Pool in Harlingen every Friday.
“Our number one goal is to teach kids a love for reading,” Ramirez said. “Somewhere along that same line is to teach them a love for learning, and we hope through those efforts the community and our school district will reap the benefits of kids doing well in school and graduating.”
According to Ramirez, the Club was also encouraged to open the lab at the suggestion of United Way. “United Way has stressed to us, ‘Hey guys, it’s wonderful that you’re doing recreation, and those are all great things, but we at United Way feel you need to do a better job in academic enrichment for kids while you have them there’,” Ramirez said. “And it’s been made very interesting for the kids. They like going there, and without them realizing it they’re learning and they’re learning to love to learn.”
Editor’s Note: The phrase, “But you don’t have to take my word for it,” was popularized by the television show Reading Rainbow and its host, LeVar Burton.