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Read Across America Spokane 2019

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Rogers High's Trendon Phothivongsa shows off his book selections.

Imelda Hernandez, an alternative high school student at On Track Academy, is one of some 100 Spokane students who received a $50 gift card at independent book store Auntie’s. She says she was thrilled to be selected to get to purchase books she could take home. While Read Across America celebrations are, traditionally, aimed at K-3 students, high school students were in the mix in Washington this year.

Seattle Education Association high school English teacher Adam Gish brought 100 students to a book store in Seattle last fall where they received the same opportunity. He was on hand in Spokane to see his idea germinate. Gish encouraged students to take their time and search for books they will keep and read repeatedly.

Education Support Professionals from five traditional and three alternative high schools in Spokane identified and connected with students and helped arrange plans. Students received guidance from local authors, volunteers and Auntie’s staff members as students browsed through hundreds of books before making their selections.

"I'm a very picky reader," Rogers High School senior Trendon Phothivongsa says. He was all smiles as he found three books.

"Getting to watch the Spokane ESP members watch the joy the students felt as they carried around their new books was amazing," 2018 WEA Education Support Professional of the Year Janie White says. "This was the first time many of these kids had ever been in a book store. Some ESP members rode buses with them to help the kids get here."

Spokane EA President Katie Henry echoed White. "The kids were thrilled and I was excited to see how excited the adults were for their kids. Especially in the alternative schools, kids don't always have all the same opportunities."

"The whole night made me smile,” SEA member Erica Clarke said. And two of the students Clarke selected from Lewis and Clark High School were all grins themselves.

"It’s close to my birthday," freshman Katie Crone says. "I’m going to tune out the world with books."

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