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Vicki Soto Project Supports Stratford Literacy With Free Books, Funds

Reading teachers had fun "shopping" for new books at the Miss Soto Literacy Legacy Project event Friday. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Stratford reading teachers got to choose from free books for their students, courtesy of the Miss Soto's Literacy Legacy Project. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
These are just a few of the thousands of books donated to Stratford reading teachers Friday. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

STRATFORD, Conn. — Stratford’s 18 reading teachers were all smiles Friday, as they filled bags with free books and applauded a $20,000 donation from Miss Soto’s Literacy Legacy Project.

The project, part of the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund founded in memory of the Newtown teacher who was among the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, collected thousands of books for the donation day.

“It means my sister’s life and her legacy get to continue,” said Soto's brother Matt Soto, a college sophomore who is the project’s co director.

Stratford Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson said she was happy to accept the books and the funds, which will be used exclusively for literacy needs in the district. 

Stratford has an ever-increasing number of students for whom English is a second language and literacy efforts are crucial, she said.

“Literacy is our top priority,” she said.

Susan Schmidt, the district’s pre-K-6 literacy coordinator, said the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund has been instrumental in helping boost opportunities for reading teachers and their students.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to partner together,” she said.

Soto and Amy Wiltsie, his fellow co-director, also announced the Miss Soto’s Literacy Legacy Project’s 2016-17 books for the year. In October, 250 K-6 classrooms across Stratford will receive free copies of “Beautiful Hands” by Bret Baumgarten, followed by four more books throughout the school year, Soto said.

All the books are marked with the Team Vicki Soto seal, reminding students of the teacher’s love of reading, Soto said.

Soto and Wiltsie are working to bring the book’s illustrator, Kathryn Otoshi, to Stratford to work on an art project with students. The project might include a traveling mural or one completed under an Interstate 95 overpass, Wiltsie said.

Funding for the literacy project’s efforts comes from the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund’s 5K race, held each November close to Soto’s birthday. This year’s event takes place Nov. 5 in the Lordship section of Stratford.

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