Volunteer Spotlight: Lili Cantu

BookSpring’s Volunteer Spotlight highlights our gratitude for the heroes behind the scenes. The Volunteer Spotlight is on Lili Cantu. Lili has contributed to the BookSpring mission for years as a staff member turned volunteer.

What is your volunteer role with BookSpring? What are some of the activities you have helped with?
I am a translator for the Weekly Themes web pages and other occasional items. I am currently also hosting a Parent Book Club via Zoom.

Can you speak about creating the PBC and how you’ve seen it benefit families over the years?
I was hired way back in 1997 by BookSpring predecessor, Reading Is Fundamental of Austin, to create a program for young children and their families. At the time, we were only serving elementary-age children. Still, we recognized the importance of early literacy and the crucial role parents play in getting their children excited about and interested in reading. After attending a conference and seeing a presentation by a researcher who had tried a similar idea, we created the Parent Book Club. It was important to give parents who maybe had never had a read-aloud experience as children to have some direct instruction in read-aloud techniques. We also wanted them to have a safe space to practice reading engagingly, ask questions, talk about their challenges, and meet other parents. And we wanted them to have a good start on a family library, so the program became a six-week course, with a different topic each week and a free book to go with it. The program has evolved, especially now that it’s on Zoom, but those are still the core elements.

Parent Book Club with Todos Juntos 2018

What do you like about BookSpring?
The mission and the people. You will not find a group of more committed and caring individuals. And of course, those “a-ha moments” when you see a light bulb flash in a parent or a child’s eyes, and they have made a connection with each other and a good book.

Why is reading important to you?
As a child growing up in Mexico, it was a huge part of the way I learned English. Then when I moved to the States, it was an escape when I felt homesick. Reading is like breathing. I can’t imagine life without it. It would certainly be much less rich.

What is your favorite children’s book? Why?
Hard question. If you asked me tomorrow, I would have a different answer. The first book that comes to mind today is The Evolution of Clapurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, a local author. I have recently become an empty-nester and my daughter is a budding naturalist, so thinking of this book’s main character reminds me of her and the time I read the book to her. Plus, it was amazing imagery of a hot Texas summer and one of my favorite quotes ever: “One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves, and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day long and eat peaches. And if any young knights in armor dared to come calling on their white chargers and plead with me to let down my hair, I would pelt them with peach pits until they went home.”

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Volunteer Spotlight: Lili Cantu
Parent Book Club on Zoom
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