Belen Espinoza

NAI scholar Belen Espinoza reads “Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse” to second graders at 32nd Street School. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Social Impact

Donation of more than 4,000 books aims to promote literacy in USC’s neighborhood

The books are earmarked for nine schools with K-5 programs within the USC Family of Schools and will be delivered via the USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative.

May 17, 2019 Sa?l Garc?a

As a follow-up to the 24th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the USC Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative will donate more than 4,000 books to the USC Family of Schools. The books are being distributed to promote literacy in young students and will be spread out among the nine schools with K-5 programs.

Kim Thomas-Barrios, USC’s associate senior vice president of educational partnerships, believes it is important to promote reading at a young age.

“The more kids are interested in reading what they are reading, the more they will read and the better they will get at comprehending what they read, all of which will help them in the classroom,” she said.

NAI literacy program
Second graders at 32nd Street School listen to NAI scholars reading aloud from new books. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

The program was launched at 32nd Street School/USC Performing Arts Magnet near the USC University Park Campus, where Principal Ezequiel Gonzalez remarked on the importance of having books for students at various levels.

“Teachers being able to access books at different reading levels is invaluable,” Gonzalez said. “It makes the reading more enjoyable for our students. Children who are advanced can access books that are more challenging and fun for them. At the same time, students that may struggle with reading have access to books they will enjoy without feeling like they are behind. It’s a great resource to have.”

USC NAI alumni Nathalye Lopez and Belen Espinoza were also on hand to read and talk to an excited group of second graders. For them, it was an opportunity to give back to a community of schools that paved the way for their success.

“I see myself when I was younger,” Lopez said. “I was from this community. I always remembered the students that came back to read and give us advice. I am where I am today because of the support and mentorship I received.”

The books are meant to be a resource for classrooms and the young readers that will come across them. “The goal is to promote reading for pleasure,” Thomas-Barrios said. “We just want to help the schools spark interest in reading so that the kids develop a lifelong love of learning.”

The Neighborhood Academic Initiative is funded in part by contributions from the USC Good Neighbors Campaign.