When students enter middle school, they experience many changes academically. They learn more complex subject matter, balance increasing work loads and learn how to think critically to prepare for higher level education. They are also empowered to take control of their learning.
Aniciah Velazquez, a seventh grader at Crockett Middle School, is relishing in that liberty to champion literacy at her school.
“In elementary school, I didn’t like to read because I didn’t like the books my teachers picked for me,” she says. “As I have gotten older, that has changed. I have had the opportunity to choose the books I want to read.”
Hopeful that fellow classmates opened up to the possibility of loving reading just like she did, “Cougar Talk” was born.
“I was spending a lot of time in the library and began talking to the librarian, Miss Christine Estrada, and Principal Bianca Johnson about the books they like to read,” she says. “I was excited to learn about new books and read the stories they told me about. We came up with the idea to film book talks like these to share with the school to get other kids excited about reading.”
Principal Johnson has made it a goal at Crockett to spread the love of reading, and Aniciah has “the perfect amount of sass” to help this take off. Every month, along with cheerleading, AVID, Kindness Club and more, Aniciah films a “Cougar Talk” produced by Miss Estrada and another Crockett staff member, Miss Jessica Arroyo. Together, they pick a Crockett staff member to interview and prepare Aniciah’s interview questions. She invites the staff member to her favorite spot in the library, and they discuss a book the interviewee has chosen. Since “Cougar Talk” launched, Aniciah has interviewed more than five teachers and coaches about books ranging from Harry Potter to Michelle Obama’s Becoming.
“Hopefully people will watch my Cougar Talks and I will get to interview all of the staff because everyone has different opinions and I think that is important to share,” she says.
This seventh grader recognizes that video can attract her peers to reading. Many of the books she’s read are also movies, and Aniciah has come to realize that books can tell a better story. She believes video can inspire her classmates and other kids to pick up a book and maybe even just start by reading the back of it.
Spunky and well-spoken, Aniciah aspires to be a pediatrician with the support of her mom, Danielle Owens.
“My mom motivates me to balance it all,” she says. “Sometimes I get tired, but I know it will pay off in the end. I want to be a pediatrician, and I plan to use reading as a way to help my patients. Books have a lot of color and take you to a different world. I can use books to distract kids during difficult moments and make their visits better.”
Keep an eye on this talented student as she continues to make waves, and take a look at her most recent “Cougar Talk” with a very special guest.