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She Got $10 for Top Grades, but What She Really Wanted Was 50 Books



Kirk Elementary School's Yanely Reyes Cruz, 10, got a surprise gift of 50 books at school on Monday. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)
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Yanely Reyes Cruz was still a little sleepy Monday morning when Fresno Unified Trustee Keshia Thomas arrived at her fifth-grade classroom at Kirk Elementary School with an armful of books.

So Yanely didn’t quite remember that a couple of weeks ago, when she was presented a $10 award for being the top student in her class, she had mentioned that she’d rather have “50 books” than the money.

But her request made a big impression on Thomas and Trustee Valerie Davis, who was also at the awards ceremony, and they teamed up to get Yanely her 50 books — as well as 50 more for Yanely’s classroom. Thomas said the book donation sponsors also included Reading Heart, a Fresno book donation nonprofit, and the NAACP.

Her teacher, Marisela Quintero, said all book donations for the classroom will be gratefully accepted.

“If you guys can get us books, trust me, we will use them to the point where it’s not a joke,” Quintero said. “We really want books.”

She Learns New Words Through Reading

A little book box sits outside Kirk Elementary School in southwest Fresno. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

Yanely, 10, said she likes to read because she likes to learn new words and expand her vocabulary. PBS Kids is one of her favorite channels because it has the “word of the week.”

There’s a little book box lending library on the street outside Kirk’s fence, and Yanely says she sometimes borrows books from it.

She says she might go to summer school — “I like going to school” — and she hopes to enroll at Computech after finishing sixth grade next year.

She wasn’t exactly sure how she’d be able to get that big stack of books from the southwest Fresno school to her home. But she knows exactly where they’re going — she has a bookshelf at home for her books.

Her favorites? “I like the ‘Dork Diaries,’ ” she said shyly.

Reading Is Fundamental

Kirk principal Tobaise Brookins said the school does everything possible to encourage a love for reading among students.

“I was reading to them once a week and they were jazzed up,” he said. But school officials also took steps to get students into the library and reading books out loud, which improves their fluency and pronunciation, Brookins said.

Kirk is grateful for the support it gets from the community, which included the $650 contribution from school benefactor AJ Rassamni that was divided into smaller “scholarships” that went to students with the most improvement and also highest grades.

Yanely said her award is safe at home, although she’s not sure about her $10 prize. “I forget — I think I used it to buy ice cream for me and my brother,” she said.

Fresno Unified Trustee Keshia Thomas, at left, with fifth-grader Yanely Reyes Cruz on Monday at Kirk Elementary. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email