by Colleen Digney
July 23, 2019
Despite the extreme heat over the weekend, on Saturday Bronx youngsters and their parents came out in droves for StriveHigher’s educational and empowering story time. Enthusiasm for having literature available for kids in the often-underserved Bronx, was evident in the parents, authors, book readers, elected officials, and especially the children.
StriveHigher, a not-for-profit that was created to motivate Bronx youngsters, hosts a monthly story time for children at the T-mobile store on 204th street.
This month, author Evita Giron read aloud her book, The Girl with the Magical Curls, that follows a young curly-haired girl who struggles with accepting her curly locks and wishes for straight hair. The concept hit home with Bronxites.
“I always tell my daughter that her natural hair is beautiful and she never believes me,” said Karina Gonzalez of her 4-year-old daughter. “I tell her, ‘your hair is dancing and going in circles — like you always do!’”
Giron, who wrote the book with her own 6-year-old daughter in mind, emphasized that each curly-haired girl in the room should wear their hair proudly. In addition to her message, StriveHigher chose Giron for the story time since she is a Bronx native.
“I typically choose books that feature characters of color and that are written by authors of color,” said Olga Baez, founder of StriveHigher. “Representation is very important.”
Gonzalez who brought her daughter to the event, explained how out of an endless stack of books in her home, she owns only one that features a Hispanic character. She believes that when her daughter attends these story times and sees characters that actually look like herself, she’ll be more likely to establish self-confidence.
“You should be who you want to be and look how you want to look,” said Senator Senator Jamaal Bailey, who attended the event. “You are all kings and queens, so walk tall and proud.”
He also noted the recently-passed Crown Act that prohibits discrimination against how people wear their hair, which was legal in NY State until just last week.
At the end, each child was able to choose a free book to take home. It was hard not to notice that nearly all of the ones they selected featured characters that look like them.
StriveHigher has given out at least 100 free books so far, according to Baez. “Some of the kids pick up two and I can never say no,” she laughed.
All of the books are provided by donations and her Amazon wish-list. Baez encourages anyone who wishes to donate, to add a book to the wish-list that either they’re interested in or that they read as a child.
After some free ice-pops, the day ended with a raffle where one lucky boy was chosen to take home a new tablet, supplied by T-mobile.
“I didn’t even know there was a raffle!” exclaimed the winner as he walked away holding his new tablet.
The next StriveHigher story time will be held on July 27th at the T-mobile in Mt. Vernon.