Payson Elementary School principal Roy Sandoval is convinced Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has committed herself and her office to supporting public education.
A recent book given to all first-grade students in the state is among the programs that has convinced the PES principal the governor is genuinely concerned about the welfare of public school students.
With sponsorship from Phelps Dodge and Southwest Gas, the governor's office last week distributed about 90,000 copies of the book "Confetti," by Pat Mora, to the students. First-graders at PES, Julia Randall, Frontier, Pine and Tonto Basin were among those to receive the books.
"Confetti" is a collection of poems about Southwest living, seen through the eyes of a young Mexican-American girl. Many Spanish words, like saguaro cactus, piñatas and castanets give the poems the texture of life in this region.
Along with the books, the teachers passed out letters to their parents from the governor. In it, she wrote "One of the most important ways adults can prepare children for academic success is to read aloud to them."
Sandoval concurred with the governor.
"This book is best used when parents sit down with their kids and read with them," he said. "Then (the parents) should follow it up with more reading"
In the governor's letter to parents, she wrote, "Reading to a child for just 15 minutes a day can help our children begin school with the skills they need to succeed and graduate."
The governor said reading "boosts self-esteem, develops language skills and improves test scores."
Napolitano cited literary training as "so important that the American Medical Association has suggested all doctors prescribe reading to children to encourage healthy development."
At PES, as first-grade teacher Tim Ryden passed out copies of "Confetti" to his students, the youngsters enthusiastically thumbed through the pages. As they were skimming the book, Ryden and Sandoval echoed what the governor had asked --or the children to take the books home to their parents and spend a few minutes reading with them.
"It's some of the best time parents and their children will spend together," Sandoval said.