Dec 7, 2023
By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
When a school in a rural community caught fire one night, students had to be relocated for the remainder of the year. In addition to the upheaval, they faced the great loss of their library’s books.
To help fill this gap and keep the kids reading, Texoma Health Foundation and area businesses partnered with Save the Children to deliver a load of books into the hands of young readers.
“We focus on these rural communities that are so important to any country, including the U.S.,” says Claudia Vargas, State Director for Texas within the international Save the Children organization. “These communities feed us, provide timber, and so many other things. We don’t want them to disappear. We don’t want families to have to leave rural communities because there are no resources for quality education.”
Before coming to Texas, Claudia worked in New York, a contrast to the rural area she grew up in near Mexico City. She understands the struggles young people face when their access to resources is limited.
She also appreciates the pride and beauty in rural communities. Those are elements she wants to see nurtured and preserved, and is doing her part through Save the Children.
“Rural communities have healthy environments in many ways, but they also don’t have enough infrastructure or resources,” Claudia says. “I think bringing resources to communities in rural America is helping these children and families feel like they belong, that they can be empowered, and have quality education in their communities.”
With books donated by individuals and companies like Scholastic and Amazon, Save the Children has partnered with THF to distribute 10,394 books (and counting) to schools, programs, and families—anywhere adults are nurturing the education and development of children.
“When a child is exposed to books in the right way, they don’t need to know how to read,” Claudia says. “Just understanding that there is this code called words, and it’s matched somehow to these illustrations. That’s early reading.”
Connecting with parents and helping them understand they are their child’s first teacher is vital for school readiness. Early reading at home translates into life skills when a child enters school.
“Children receiving books at an early age need an adult to open the book and share it with them,” she says. “The emotion that is shared between a parent and child through a book builds their social and emotional skills. And they are connecting with the characters in a story. It’s so important to understand you are not alone in the world in your experiences. The world becomes larger as we become exposed to books.”
Claudia hopes to reach more rural communities through their schools and homes in the coming years as Save the Children’s partnership with THF grows.
“THF is rural, so that’s very important to us,” Claudia says. “Since they are not a school, this is a nontraditional partnership for us. But when we met the staff at THF and realized the reach they had, and this huge space where they could receive a gift and distribute it in their community, it was amazing. We saw we could partner with them and reach all these children in North Texas and Oklahoma.”