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Caceres Elementary School in Donna received special recognition during the 2018 Texas Book Festival Reading Rock Stars’ celebration held recently in the Rio Grande Valley.

The campus was chosen from among other public schools to be named this year’s “Media School” because of the work it has done organizing, commemorating and welcoming nationally acclaimed authors.

“When you’re the media school, it means that you’ve done an outstanding job in previous years welcoming the authors and getting teachers and students prepared,” Texas Book Festival Committee Member Katherine Wright said. “Between the mariachis and cheerleaders and the songs that they created for the authors, it is the most heartwarming welcome these authors experience. With this designation, media comes in and becomes part of the day.”

School Librarian Cynthia Balderas was overwhelmed by the news. “Our school is very honored because we worked really hard the first year,” Balderas said. “We want to spread the message to our community because this is an awesome privilege.”

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During this year’s festivities, the Texas Book Festival hosted three recognized authors – René Colato Laínez, bilingual teacher, literature columnist for La Bloga, and author of I Am René the Boy/Soy René el Niño; Ana Aranda, illustrator of The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra; and Anna Meriano, children’s book author of Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble.

The students were engaged and especially excited when the authors personally handed each of them a free autographed book.

“Our children loved it,” Balderas said. “They’ve been looking forward to this day since the beginning of the year. They’re biggest thrill is that they get to take a book home and share it with their family. That’s something they will remember because when I asked them about last year’s experience, they immediately remembered the names of the authors and that they had given them a book to take home. This event has a big impact on them.”

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Wright said this is exactly why the Reading Rocks Stars program is crucial. “It’s so important to bring these authors so the children can see them first-hand as opposed to just reading their books. It puts a face to the books. It says ‘Hey somebody that looks like me can write a book.’ It says somebody with experiences can go out and write a book and become a writer or illustrator and become successful. That’s why it’s important to put a book in the hands of children. The book is the first one a child owns many times.”

Fifth-grade student Isabella Gonzalez said this is her second book she gets to take home. “I love it when the authors talk about their books, why they wrote them and how they came up with ideas. I really love it when they tell us that we can be like them one day.”

This year, The Texas Book Festival donated 465 books to Caceres Elementary School.

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