McALLEN, RGV – The South Texas Literacy Coalition holds its 7th Annual Historias de la Vida Gala fundraiser on Saturday, October 3, from 6 – 11 p.m. at the Valencia Event Center in McAllen.

Dr. Ida Acuña-Garza
Dr. Ida Acuña-Garza

Dr. Ida Acuña-Garza, the STLC executive director, said proceeds raised at the fundraiser will be used to support the literacy outreach efforts of the coalition as it works to bring awareness to the community of the importance of literacy skills to the academic achievement of children and students and to the educational attainment and economic stability of the South Texas region.

“Each annual Historias de la Vida/Stories of Our Lives gala celebrates our heritage and the legacy that each generation leaves behind in terms of our culture, our customs and traditions, our art and our literature,” Acuña-Garza told the Rio Grande Guardian.

The featured author for this year’s gala will be Pat Mora, a renowned children’s author and founder of the Dia de los Niños movement.

“This year the theme is ‘fiesta’ and the celebration of children. Each guest will receive a copy of Pat Mora’s book, Book Fiesta – Dia de los Niños/Dia de los Libros, a bilingual book celebrating literacy. Our events are always fun and we hope that readers will consider attending our gala and joining the fiesta,” Acuña-Garza said.

Acuña-Garza said the gala will also include a cocktail hour, silent auction, raffle, photo booth, entertainment, dinner and an awards presentation. Awards will be presented to HEB as the 2015 Community Literacy Champion in the organization category and an individual literacy champion award to a community leader who has been active in the promotion of literacy. The Literacy Excellence for Librarians Award will recognize a librarian in each of three categories – public, school, and academic.

Pat Mora
Pat Mora

Ricardo Contreras, president of the South Texas Literacy Coalition, said: “We are excited about this year’s gala because it will exemplify our educational efforts in reaching out to the entire family in promoting family literacy. Our featured author, Pat Mora, is a renowned children’s author and the founder of the Dia de los Niños movement. Her passion and focus for reaching out to families and encouraging reading together celebrates every member of the family and their potential contributions to each community. We want our guests to understand that promoting literacy is a community effort and we need each and every one to contribute in some way to increase the literacy skills in our region.”

Contreras said this year’s silent auction will feature a number of unique items including a signed football by Roger Staubach, a signed “Wilson” volleyball signed by actor Tom Hanks, similar to the volley ball featured in the movie “Castaway,” a Dr. Seuss hand signed hardback book, The Beach Boys band signed acoustic guitar, an Emmitt Smith hand signed Cowboys football, a J.K. Rowling hand signed hardback “Harry Potter” book, other sports items, jewelry, home décor, gift sets and movie paraphernalia.

In a newsletter sent out to supporters, the STLC gave bullet points on the seriousness of illiteracy in South Texas and the nation:

♦ The average percentage of the illiterate adult population in the eleven counties served by the South Texas Literacy Coalition according to the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL) is 42 percent
♦ Dropouts cost our state $9.6 Billion annually (United Ways of Texas)
♦ More than $2 Billion is spent annually on students who repeat a grade due to reading problems
♦ One in three adults cannot read this sentence (National Assessment of Adult Literacy)
♦ A rise of one percent in literacy scores leads to a 2.5 percent rise in labor productivity and a 1.5 percent rise in the GDP (The Economist)
♦ Literacy programs in Texas are only serving 3.6 percent of the 3.8 million in need of adult basic education services (Texas LEARNS)
♦ 15 percent of the total state population are adults without a high school credential
♦ Six out of ten households do not buy a single book in a year
♦ 45 million persons in the nation are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level
♦ Three out of four people receiving public assistance cannot read
♦ Illiteracy costs American taxpayers an estimated $20 billion each year
♦ 85 percent of juvenile offenders have problems reading
♦ Low literacy adds an estimated $230 Billion to the country’s annual health care costs
♦ Only 40 percent of adults have a budget and keep track of spending
♦ Seventy five percent of American families say they live from paycheck to paycheck
♦ More than 25 percent of families have no savings at all

“Literacy impacts every aspect of our personal lives; and, in turn, impacts every community. We must develop a literacy leadership partnership and involve families, our educational systems, municipalities, county government, and the business community through donors and sponsors to address these issues at the local level,” Acuña-Garza added.