Meet GEMA MARQUEZ, the Story Book Lady
Tara A. Spears
Local Jaltemba Bay resident, Gema Marquez is a natural child magnet because of her sincerity and bubbly personality. Put a book in her hand and the audience is captivated, even wiggly 5 year olds. While her sincerity is natural, it is a matter of training that enables Gema to match the books to the age and developmental level of the kindergarteners that she reads aloud to every week. This retired elementary teacher accomplished 30 years in the Mexican school trenches-she knows the curriculum. Gema said, “I believe in the importance of providing a good sound education for the early years. If children develop a love of reading at this age (younger than 6), they will continue to love reading throughout their lives.”
Beginning in early 2013, a joint project of the Jaltemba Bay Rotary Club and Los Amigos de Jaltemba to promote literacy throughout our rural areabegan. The Libros sobre Ruedas (Books on Wheels) Program is hugely popular. She operates the Books on Wheels program out of the trunk of her car in order to visit 11 schools each week. Some of the kinders are in La Penita and Los Ayala, but she also travels to Chacala, El Divisadero, El Capomo, Lima de Abajo, Puerta de la Lima, El Tonino, and La Joya. These small early childhood schools have only one teacher for all the lessons. Gema arriving with quality books and structured lessons (providing the materials, too) is a real treat for teacher and students.
The interaction between Gema and the students is a passing of the love of words and reading onto another generation.
But Gema’s program is not limited to the classroom. If she is scheduled to visit a school first thing in the morning, she arrives early and opens the trunk of her car. Parents and older brothers and sisters descend on it, and select books to read to the younger children before school even starts. Parents of the younger children come along and borrow books to read to the kids, so family literacy is being promoted too.
Even though she has a full and busy schedule, Gema says that she gets energy from the children. “I enjoy my time with the children especially when the child really connects to a book-it is so magical! Although Books on Wheels accepts donated books (in Spanish), Gema prefers to select quality literature that coordinates with the children’s developmental level and curriculum.
Story time is a gift that touches hearts and minds of our children, thanks Gema!
To support this wonderful literacy program, contact Rotary Club or Los Amigos, or call Gema directly: 322-150 5987