Summer literacy program comes to Harlingen Housing Authority communities

HARLINGEN — “Are You My Mother?”

The Dr. Seuss book was among the children’s books handed out yesterday in the four communities of the Harlingen Housing Authority.

The books were distributed to children throughout the day as part of the Book-Rich Environments Initiative.

“The BRE Initiative is for housing authorities nationwide,” said Hilda Benavides, executive director of the Harlingen Housing Authority.

The initiative selected the books which would be given to the children, she said.

“At each book session we had hot dogs, chips and drinks,” she said.

The party-like atmosphere also included colorful mascots to ignite the children’s enthusiasm. The bicultural enthusiasm of the residents was acknowledged in a rather thoughtful way.

Adrian Gonzalez, Cameron County Constable Precinct 3, read the Dr. Seuss story in Spanish and Molly Walter of the Harlingen Public Library read it in English.

“It was pretty cool,” said Gonzalez, who expressed a strong belief in community policing, a practice in which officers interact directly with local residents. That’s what he, Walter and other community members did yesterday.

“We tried to make it as exciting as we could,” he said. Then, on a more personal level, he added, “I hadn’t read in Spanish in about 30 years. I found out I still can.”

Alexander Hernandez, 8, appreciated the effort.

“I like the author, Dr. Seuss,” he said as his young sisters, Marina and Jordan, played on the floor nearby.

“It was good that they read in English and Spanish,” he added. “I liked it because it was in different languages. It’s a good story.”

His mother, Ana Tovar, also appreciated the event.

“I liked it a lot,” she said. “They gave them these books in Spanish so I can help them at home.”

Literacy events such as these — and they happen quite often in Harlingen housing communities — seem to draw children and their families like magnets.

It’s as if they know they can read if they make the effort, even in stressful times when opportunities are meager. If there’s a book in town, they’re going to read it.

True to form, it’s as the famous phrase of another book they were given yesterday called “The Little Engine That Could.”

What did he say?

“I think I can, I think I can…” or, more aptly put, “I know I can, I know I can.”

Four communities of the Harlingen housing community

  • Los Vecinos
  • Bonita Park
  • LeMoyne Gardens
  • Sunset Terrace

Books given to the children yesterday

  • “The Tale of Kitty–In–Boot,” by Beatrix Potter
  • “Are You My Mother?” by Dr. Seuss


The Book-Rich Environments Initiative is a collaboration aimed at transforming Public Housing Authorities by providing diverse, high quality books and other literacy tools to children and families living in HUD public housing.

The Harlingen Housing Authority is one of 37 Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) nationwide that are part of the BRE. Hilda Benavides, executive director of the Harlingen Housing Authority, said the Harlingen housing communities were chosen because of numerous initiatives at improving literacy for children.

There are reading programs throughout the year as well as a summer program. Another youth program enlists the help of residents age 16 to 24 to serve as mentors for youngsters in the communities.