Children First: South Valley librarian working to increase literacy rates

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Sophia Mejia-Taylor promotes literacy through pedal power!

A pandemic didn't stop this school librarian from getting books to families and children in the city of Woodlake.

"I was really scared about the virus and she was good enough to come and give us books to our house," says Isabel Espinoza.

"I just thought it would just be really fun to use the bike and then also promote exercise," Sophia said. "It does help when the dogs chase me because I can put the throttle and raise the speed and not get bit."

Most students at Castle Rock Elementary returned to campus this fall and found a new and improved library with a STEAM Center.

Miss Sophia, as she's known, played a key part in the makeover.

"We have 3D printers, robots, many different things that they can manipulate," she said. "I wanted the students to have the opportunity to have a STEAM education, and also to make it equitable for all of our students.

Miss Sophia has an entire Library Squad. Her helpers put books away and assist fellow readers.

"I tell them that it's important to read so that they can get better at reading," says Brisa Ruiz.

According to California Reading Coalition, over half of California 3rd graders are reading below grade level. That puts them at a higher risk of dropping out of high school.

"We're doing everything we can to close that gap and that's really our goal in having facilities like this, as well as team members like Miss Sophia, it helps us in helping them," says Jason Trevino.

Woodlake Unified School District is part of the Readership Project, a program launched by Children First sponsor, Tulare County Office of Education. Castle Rock Elementary gave away books to children and families.

Several Woodlake businesses have books available for children.

That love includes sparking creativity. When Miss Sophia launched a recycling challenge, Isabel won first place with her coronavirus piñata.

"We decided to put a crown on the piñata," she said.

With Miss Sophia by their side, these kids know reading means succeeding.
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