Feature Story: Read Across America

There were three things I loved most in elementary school: kick ball, Super Nintendo and Shel Silverstein.

Shel Silvertein’s books, most notably “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “A Light in the Attic,” appealed to my rebellious nature. While everyone else seemed to be reading Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl (both terrific writers, obviously), there was something about Silverstein’s poems that drew me in. His poems were silly but not overly childish, and many times heartfelt and personal. It was as if those books were written exclusively for me. Even at that young age, I recognized a complexity in Silverstein’s writing, even if I couldn’t properly explain it at the time.

There were other books too. The Encyclopedia Brown series kept me up all hours of the night, trying to find each story’s hidden clues; “The Dead Man in Indian Creek,” although not a hugely popular title, was my first true suspense novel; and who wasn’t fascinated by “The Indian in the Cupboard”?

I even read so-called “girls” books like “Isle of the Blue Dolphins” and “Ramona and her Mother.” (But those I read at home, alone in my bedroom.)

I was lucky to have teachers who not only instilled the importance of reading, but emphasized that reading should be fun. Instead of feeling like a chore, reading was an escape from reality, with every book a transport to a different world, and every page a new adventure.

Today, I’m still addicted to reading, and I’m lucky to be in a career where reading, writing and constant learning are job requisites.

Needless to say, when I was invited to read to first grade students at Unsworth Elementary today as part of the “Read Across America” celebration, I jumped at the chance. I brought with me a book published by Marvel; the book contained 12 short stories featuring Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and other superheroes. I wanted to show the kids that reading can be enjoyable.

The students seemed to have fun. We even had a lively conversation on superheroes, villains, and superpowers. One boy gave me a giant unsolicited hug before I left.

In today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, speed and efficiency have never been more valued. But there will always be an intangible nourishment that comes with curling up with a good book and letting your mind wander to a new adventure.

Joseph Manacmul, Operations Director @ Stay Gallery reading to a class at Unsworth Elementary

Joseph Manacmul, Operations Director @ Stay Gallery reading to a class at Unsworth Elementary

Valentin Flores, Executive Director @ Stay Gallery reading to a class at Old River Elementary

Valentin Flores, Executive Director @ Stay Gallery reading to a class at Old River Elementary

Gabriel Enamorado, Creative Director @ Stay Gallery reading to a class at Unsworth Elementary

Gabriel Enamorado, Creative Director @ Stay Gallery reading to a class at Unsworth Elementary

Matias Flores, local Attorney and Valentin Flores' brother reading to a class at Old River Elementary

Matias Flores, local Attorney and Valentin Flores' brother reading to a class at Old River Elementary


Eric Pierce is the Chief Editor for The Downey Patriot.
We can only hope that he continues to be a featured writer on our blog.

Do you have a story to tell?
Email it to our Creative Director: gabe@staygallery.org


Get Involved

Trust us, it is an awesome experience to read to a class full of children who look onto you with eager eyes, ready to hear your story, smile and laugh with you. For next year's Read Across America, we will be announcing how you can join us!