Families receive free meals, books at Summer Kick-Off Event


By Benjamin Beane and Eddie Villa

As part of her Thursday routine, Austin ISD parent Diana Celis arrived at Padron Elementary — in one hand she held her daughter’s hand, in the other a reusable bag. The bag was to make sure she could haul home her free seven-day meal packs and the books her daughter picked out to take home.

“I got my book for my little girl who loves to read and now for the most important thing, I'm going to get food,” Celis said. “When they distribute food I love the vegetables and fruits. Sometimes food is expensive and here they are giving it away.”

The meal distribution was part of Austin ISD’s Summer Kick-off event, which was used to highlight the free food families can pick up as well as the Buford the Book Bus program.

“It’s beautiful that they have this desire to provide free food,” Celis said. “I try to take advantage of it and I try to learn how to make healthier food for my daughters.”

Celis pick up a free book for her daughter from Buford the Book Bus, which joined the Summer Kick-Off event.

AISD’s Buford the Book Bus partnered with Austin Public Library’s Bookmobile this summer to give free books. It’s stopping at campuses where AISD Food Services is distributing free weekly meal packs. Free books are available to all students regardless of where they attend school, from toddler to young adult, in English or Spanish.

Another parent who benefited from the free book service was Andrea Troncoso, who brought her three young readers to pick out new summer books.

“I’ve been really trying to foster their love for reading so this is going to be great. We have some new books to dive into,” Troncoso said.

By creating the opportunity for children to receive books of their own, the Buford the Book Bus program strives to prevent the summer slide — a drop in reading levels over the summer — and encourage reading year-round.

“[Students] go back to school having lost a couple of months of their reading level and we don’t want that to happen; we want our kids to come back in the fall strong and ready to keep reading and learning,” said APL Central Librarian Shanon Pierce.

Volunteers help parents and children pick age-appropriate books to take home. With plenty of genres to choose from, kids receive books they want to read.

“We like to give out fun books in the summer, because summer reading is all about the fun,” Pierce said.

As part of the celebration, hosts from Spanish radio station 107.1 La Z joined to speak with students about the importance of bilingual education. 

“Read! Cultivate your mind and more than anything read in both the English and Spanish language, so you keep learning and don’t forget,” they said.