A half-hour before school started last Wednesday morning at Greenbrae Elementary, about 40 people of all ages gathered together in its multipurpose room to enjoy the monthly “Breakfast with Books” event.
This joint effort hosted by Spread the Word Nevada also featured the Nevada Department of Agriculture and was sponsored by Dayton Valley Aquaponics who provided locally grown snacks. At Washoe County’s May “Breakfast with Books” event, students had the opportunity to meet “Farmer Mona” from Dayton Valley Aquaponics, pick out a free book, and listen to NDA Director Jennifer Ott read I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato. Families had the opportunity to eat local tomatoes in a cafeteria-like setting before enjoying the reading and a short presentation with the local farmer.
Spread the Word Nevada is a literacy nonprofit group that was incepted in 2001 with the primary goal to advance early childhood literacy through placing books into the hands of Nevada’s at-risk, low-income youth.
“Breakfast with Books is a signature Spread the Word Nevada event and we’ve been doing monthly readings in Washoe County since December 2018,” says Spread the Word Nevada Program Manager MacKenzie Cortez. “Families can come before school starts, get a light snack and a juice, and every person who attends gets a free book followed by a story reading. We also give out raffle prizes,” she adds.
Headquartered in Las Vegas, Spread the Word Nevada recently increased its reach by meandering up north and adopting Washoe County, giving Wednesday morning monthly readings at Greenbrae Elementary in Sparks and Tuesday afternoon readings at Rita Cannan Elementary School in Reno.
“We had over 40 people and for 8:15am that’s a pretty solid turnout for a small school,” Cortez says about the at the May Greenbrae event. “Something that was really cool about this particular ‘Breakfast with Books’ is NDA provided the snack of fresh tomatoes and Farmer Mona from Dayton Valley Aquaponics talked about how tomatoes grow,” she adds.
Cortez shares how many kids didn’t know that plants could grow underwater, and that they were interested in how tilapia waste fertilizes the plants. “Talking about the tilapia poop was the highlight,” laughs Cortez. Farmer Mona also asked how many attendees knew of any women farmers, and only one or two hands shot up.
“Farmers don’t have to be what kids generally see in storybooks, so it was nice to have a woman farmer there (to debunk that stereotype),” Cortez says.
“We were thrilled to partner with Spread the Word Nevada and Dayton Valley Aquaponics to bring local tomatoes to ‘Breakfast with Books’ at Greenbrae,” says NDA Director Jennifer Ott. “When students learn about farming or hear fruits and veggies included in stories, they are more likely to be curious and try them,” she adds.
Spread the Word Nevada’s focus is in urban areas where kids don’t have immediate access to books, and in the last 18 years it has distributed more than 5 million books to at least 548,000 kids in Nevada.
“My favorite part (of ‘Breakfast with Books’) is when they get their snack, juice, and then pick their book. They immediately start reading it and it’s so fun to see- it constantly reminds us that this is why we do what we do, to see kids so excited to get their new book. With all of the technology that’s out there, it’s just really powerful. Spread the Word Nevada is dedicated to childhood literacy and getting into the homes of low-income families one book at a time. We believe in the magic and power of books,” Cortez enthusiastically adds.
For more information on Spread the Word Nevada and its ‘Breakfast with Books’ program, visit https://spreadthewordnevada.org/.