When she was growing up, Evelin La Paz, MHA, BHSA, loved books. Her parents read to her regularly, and when she learned to read on her own, she couldn’t get enough. This early appreciation for language and communication eventually led her to become Manager of Language Services at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. And so it’s no surprise that she was drawn as a volunteer and board member of the nonprofit Lancaster Education Foundation (LEF), home of the program Hooked on Books.
Hooked on Books is a joint effort of the LEF and the School District of Lancaster (SDoL). It provides a new book each month of the school year to all second-grade students in the district for them to take home and share with their families and friends.
Each book has a bookplate inserted by volunteers, which helps students take pride in owning the book.
In addition, a guest reader records a video of themselves reading the book each month; the video is shared with all second-grade teachers in SDoL, so that students can follow along with their own copies of the books.
To support her volunteer work with LEF, La Paz applied for a Penn Medicine CAREs Grant, and the Hooked on Books program was awarded $1,000. Penn Medicine CAREs grants are awarded quarterly to a variety of community-outreach programs spearheaded or supported by Penn Medicine faculty, staff, students, and trainees.
“Through initiatives such as Hooked on Books, LEF is building bridges to help eliminate disparities for students in the district, which has a large population of disadvantaged children and youth,” La Paz says.
Fostering a passion for reading is crucial not only for children’s academic progress, but their overall well-being, she adds: “Developing strong reading skills will enable them to thrive in their education, regardless of the subject. I strongly believe that education is a path to a more fulfilling, healthier life.”