Jozeline Alvarenga may only be 11-years-old, but whether she is captivated by the horror stories of Steven King, lost in the fast-paced suspense penned by Dean Koontz or studying a classic poem by Edgar Allen Poe, the fifth grader at 122nd Street Elementary School says reading offers her “the passageway to a new world.” Alvarenga, a voracious reader who loves a scary story, was one of 21 students in Los Angeles County selected as a winner in the 33rd annual County of Los Angeles Public Library Annual Bookmark Contest . Before being honored at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting for their accomplishments, Alvarenga and other winners joined Board Chairman Mark-Ridley-Thomas and other Supervisors at a breakfast reception for their families.
“I like the scary stuff,” she said at the reception. “But really, I like everything. I like school.”
The annual bookmark competition is meant to inspire generations of young readers to cozy up with books and escape into those worlds. More than 10,000 children throughout the county submitted their work to be selected, and the chosen bookmarks will be professionally printed as bookmarks for library patrons and the winners. At least four winners were chosen from each of the county’s five districts.
For 17-year-old Christian Fuentes, a senior at Washington Prep., books let him escape into another world. He is partial to edgy works and authors like the Los Angeles poet and novelist Charles Bukowski or Chuck Palahnuik’s vicious Fight Club. These are not books on his high school’s reading list but Christian devours them anyway.
“It’s like a time capsule. Hunter S. Thompson’s world is all about the 70’s,” he said, noting one of his favorite authors and the subject of his bookmark, which depicts an alien-like creature with many eyes and a large mouth holding a copy of Thompson’s cult classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. “Books preserve the time they are written about.”
Renovating and building new libraries has been a priority for Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, including the brand new East Rancho Dominguez library. Chairman Ridley-Thomas has also been on the forefront of supporting the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools program that provides summer and after-school enrichment that helps children fall in love with reading.
“You represent the best of what Los Angeles County is about,” he said to the group of students assembled early Tuesday morning. “You have read books, stimulated your mind and expanded your universe. Literacy matters. It is important.”
And while 7-year-old Javier Toscano, Jr. was too shy to say anything at the event, he stood impressively in a coat and tie next to his bookmark, a beaming smile across his face. Javier has been encouraged to read not only by his parents but also by his 11- and 13-year-old sisters.
“They sit him down and say, ‘let’s play like we’re in school,’” said Lourdes Toscano, his mother. “He loves to read and he does it whenever he can. We are very proud.”