pix4A.P. Solis Middle School students Ashley Alonso, Damian Ocanas and Brianna Silva use the stationary bikes while reading a book.

A.P. Solis Middle School’s creative thinking is prompting more students to visit the campus library.

School librarian Erica Esqueda said while she was happy to see the same students make regular trips to the library, she also wanted to see new faces.

“I look at the student population to see which kids aren’t visiting me and which kids need that extra pull to come and read,” Esqueda said. “The library is not just for this certain type of student or that certain type of student. I thought we would get in another group so our library would be more reflective of all the different kids in our population.”

Esqueda knew she needed to think outside the box to get more children interested in checking out books and reading at the library. So, she purchased stationary bikes along with over 50 books on healthy eating and implemented a new program she calls Read and Ride. Esqueda was able to do this through a community grant and fundraiser.

pix3A.P. Solis Librarian Erica Esqueda stands in front of a display of new books on healthy eating.

“I had seen some other libraries doing this nationwide and because I have such a supportive administration here, they went ahead and gave me the go ahead to apply for some grants,” Esqueda said. “Thanks to the Walmart here in Donna, we received a Happy Healthy Kids grant in the amount of $1,250. The McDonalds in Alamo also helped us raise money through a fundraiser. It’s always nice when our local businesses invest and support our kids and our endeavors in education.”

Since implementing the stationary bikes, Esqueda has seen more students at the library utilizing the program this school year.

“I’ve seen students who I don’t recognize and ask is that a gym or something,” Esqueda said. “It’s nice to see them look for books to read and try the stationary bikes and come back and do it again.”

Esqueda said the program has taken the campus library to another level. “The library has changed so much. It’s so not a quiet place anymore. It’s a place to collaborate and with the bikes it gives the more active students who are a little bit fidgety that opportunity to read and get that exercise and anxious energy out.”

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Students like Damian Ocanas agree. He said the program is working for him. “I know a lot of kids who would rather be sitting down doing something with their feet and reading than sitting down in a desk and reading,” Ocanas said. “I’ m a fidgety person so this helps me a lot. I like to do something. I don’t like sitting still.”

Ocanas hopes the program will encourage more students to participate. “I feel privileged and thankful for our school to incorporate this program,” Ocanas said. “A lot of schools don’t have something like this and it’s a good way to incorporate reading and doing a little bit of exercise.”

While getting more students to read is Esqueda’s priority, helping them lead healthy lives is just as important.

“Our children and even us adults don’t think about our health as much or we’re not educated about what we put in our mouths. Now, our students are getting an early start. They know that they need to exercise and actually feel good when they exercise. I have some kids who will avoid PE but they’ll come and use the bikes. It’s something fun for them to use and they know that this is good for them. They’re checking out the books and are learning what goes into the food that they eat. They’re becoming more educated.”