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Dear Heloise: How can we aid literacy?

By Vincent T. Davis -
Express-News Staff Writer

(Express-News File Photo)

Heloise hosted annual gala and silent auction.

Everyone who attended “Heloise Live” on Tuesday evening at Pearl Stable heard a spirited conversation between the syndicated columnist and several noted Alamo City authors.

They also left with a genuine hint from Heloise, who took the stage holding books by the featured authors: Express-News columnist Cary Clack, children's book author Carmen Tafolla, businessman Red McCombs and Magik Theatre founder and playwright Richard Rosen.

She pointed out that she was using everyday items, including a long hair clip and a perfume-scented magazine page, as bookmarks.

San Antonio Youth Literacy sponsored the event to benefit the group's Let's Read program, which fosters reading among underprivileged elementary children. More than 160 guests attended the annual gala.

The nonprofit group raised more than $6,000 from a silent auction — which featured dinners, jewelry and spa packages — to support the literacy program.

Heloise chatted with each author individually, then with all of them collectively before night's end.

Clack, introduced as a columnist who “writes from the heart,” talked about his upcoming collection of columns, “Clowns and Rats Scare Me,” which will be published by Trinity Press.

“It's like going to the hospital and bringing home a baby,” Clack said of his first book.

Tafolla was one of the winners of the 2009 Tomas Rivera Book Award for Mexican American young adult literature for her book “The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans.” She talked about growing up on the West Side, where books were in short supply and thoughts of becoming a writer seemed like the stuff of fantasy.

Asked how she would introduce herself in a foreign land, she said as a writer from San Antonio, where her family has lived for centuries. She said that gives her a tremendous amount of loyalty to place, people and culture.

“It's gives one a certain sense of wanting to record, to show this beauty to the world,” Tafolla said. “I've been able to take a dramatic performance of one-woman shows to different places in the world and share the beauty we sometimes take for granted.”

Rosen said one of his goals was educating young children about literature and investing in future readers and audiences. He said he tries to base what he does at the theater on books that children are reading in school or at home.

“If you get them excited about a piece of literature onstage then they'll want to go out and read it,” Rosen said.

Heloise introduced McCombs as an Alamo City icon.

“If you lived in San Antonio for more than 30 seconds and don't know Red, then you don't know Red,” she said. “Red, you're an entity unto yourself.”

McCombs said he came to honor Harriet Marmon Helmle, the group's founder, for 25 years of hard work and progress toward battling illiteracy. He said his humanitarian efforts over the years are activities he enjoys.

“Life is for the living,” McCombs said. “It's a gift every day, something we didn't earn, something we don't deserve ... I'm always anxious to do different things.”

San Antonio Youth Literacy executive director Pat Medina said one of the group's biggest concerns is that people don't realize the literacy problem that affects children and adults in San Antonio.

“We want to ensure the kids don't become a statistic,” Medina said. “We use these types of venues to educate San Antonio to the need of ensuring that the youth of our community are able to read.”

For more information about the organization, call (210) 299-1533.

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