Helping with reading
Cassandra Rogers sports her Girl Scout vest in Half Moon Bay. The Cunha Intermediate School eighth-grader earned scouting’s Silver Award by compiling a list of Spanish-language books to make it easier for readers to find appropriate materials in the San Mateo County Library system. Sara Hayden / Review 

Frustrated that she couldn’t find books that suited her Spanish studies, eighth-grade Girl Scout Cadette Cassandra Rogers is making it easier for readers throughout the community to find books that are right for them. 

In pursuit of her community service Silver Award — the highest Girl Scout honor for her age — she’s dedicated about 55 hours to compiling a list of approximately 1,400 fiction and nonfiction books as part of a searchable database that will serve the San Mateo County Library system, as well as Hatch Elementary School and Cunha Intermediate School in Half Moon Bay. Readers are now able to search the database for Spanish-language books according to grade level and genre at smcl.org/espanol.

“I personally like to read. It’s a great way to learn more and expand my vocabulary. I think that finding books that allow me to do that is great,” said Rogers, a Cunha student. “I like to think my project can help people a long time.”

Rogers said that she’s been encouraged to pursue opportunities that let her use the language, a skill that she’s developed in Cabrillo Unified School District’s two-way, Spanish-English immersion program.

“It helps me to reach out to more people,” Rogers said.

Spanish Immersion Parent Association President Leigh Ann Koelsch said she remembers previous attempts to organize Spanish reading lists, including groups of parents sorting through boxes of books and searching online for resources to help guide them. Few existed, and difficulties abounded — most Spanish books come from foreign publishers that have different data entry requirements than those of the United States.

Koelsch said she was excited to hear that Rogers, who was once her dance student, was taking initiative to solve the problem.

“To have her come back into my life as an eighth-grader, it just fell out of the clear, blue sky. And all of a sudden a gift drops out of the sky (with this project) — it’s so great,” Koelsch said. “As a mother of a fifth-grader, I’m absolutely thrilled there’s going to be a reading list in Spanish because it’s really difficult for them to find just the right thing to read. This list is going to be invaluable to everybody who’s studying both languages. It’s helpful to kids, it’s helpful to teachers, and it’s helpful to parents.”

Getting the ball rolling on the project she’d been considering since January, Rogers circulated a bilingual survey to fellow students in the spring. She collected data about how students searched for books, and then used it to shape a collaboration with San Mateo County Libraries. 

San Mateo County Senior Librarian Mara Cota supervised Rogers’ work as Rogers learned how to put together a database, manipulated spreadsheets, scoured book summaries and worked with stakeholders from schools and libraries.

“This is a fabulous project. We’re really excited about it,” said Amanda Kim, a San Mateo County Libraries spokeswoman. “It’s going to be wellused. It’s a wonderful resource.”

Cota is similarly excited about the work. 

“Whether they visit the library in person or online, readers looking for Spanish language or bilingual books can now access those books much more conveniently,” she wrote in an email to the Review. “Reading is the best way to build vocabulary and memory, a way to experience the world, and directly contributes to student success.”

After this project, if she’s not reading bilingual fables or dystopian romance books, Rogers will consider a project for the Gold Award, a community project akin to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Award. With her eye on saving for a 2020 Girl Scout trip to Australia and New Zealand, she’ll also hunker down on racking up “cookie credits.” For each of the last four years, she’s sold 1,500 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

“I’m a big cookie seller,” Rogers said. 

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