In Response to Coronavirus, Garcia Center Launches Virtual Literacy Program

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As the Coronavirus pandemic forces tens of thousands of local school-aged children to be home from school and their parents and guardians, some for the very first time, are challenged to provide continuity of education, the Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center has launched a Facebook literacy program designed to improving reading and comprehension skills.

The reading program, targeted at elementary students, utilizes the skill set of Garcia Center tutors, mostly education majors, who attend Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi or Del Mar College, according to Garcia Center Director Sebastian Garzon.

“Our Virtual Literacy Program is a series of reading sessions and activities that parents can do at home with their children. The sessions are divided according to age and reading levels, starting from pre-K (age 5) to fifth grade (age 10+),” Garzon said. “We’ll post four read-alouds on our Facebook page with our tutors each weekday.”

The video series began March 26 and from the start, there was an immediate interest in the project from the virtual community. The first-day posts have 5,163 views, have been shared 162 times, and have reached 16,546 people.

“We have nine tutors from the Island University – the majority of which are from the College of Education – and three tutors from Del Mar College. We plan to offer this program until things get back to normal. The program was born as a way to help families educate their children at home and to provide an opportunity for our tutors (college students) to get a paycheck during this difficult time,” said Garzon.

Gitzel Martinez, a Bilingual Education junior at the Island University, is a student tutor at the Garcia Center who is participating in the Virtual Literacy Program.

“We all hope to achieve, promote, and instill the love of literacy in the long term for students, by having age-appropriate readings at different hours of the day,” Martinez said. Reading is imperative for the future education careers of students and is a foundation to anything they want to become. By providing a virtual reading program, we hope to continue their love for reading in an interactive way.”

Alexa Hernandez, a Bilingual Education senior at the Island University, said she hopes the program helps young learners to stay motivated while they are at home.

“It’s important to keep kids mentally stimulated because they are out of school and need to keep learning, so they don't fall behind for their next school year. They also need to keep the learning that they already have,” Hernandez said. “We can use this time to connect with them to keep them positive, so they can look back at this time when they're older and remember learning from home, rather than remembering the negative aspects of this experience.”

Local residents have been quick to view and comment on the videos. “This is amazing. Thank you for making a difference in teaching our students the love of reading,” Yvette Garcia wrote on Martinez’s video for 7- and 8-year-old students.

Garzon said the video program will continue for as long as Coronavirus keeps young students from attending school.