EDINBURG – Colombian award-winning author Juana Medina and Rio Grande Valley native author Rene Saldana Jr. recently distributed hundreds of their books to students from the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District.

The Texas Book Festival from Austin selected Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School to have the authors visit the school to promote literacy. 

Medina grew up in Bogota, Colombia, and has written several children’s books. Her recent book, Juana and Lucas, was awarded the prestigious Pura Belpré Award.

“I feel wonderful.  It’s such a great honor, especially for Latino writers to have a recognition that is named after someone so special, like Pura Belpré,” she said.  “So, I feel honored to be the awardee of this year.”

According to the Association for Library Service to Children’s website, the Pura Belpré Award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library.  The award is presented to a Latino author whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Medina currently teaches at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She said that she enjoyed visiting with the students and hoped to inspire some of them to become writers. 

“I hope that they learn that their stories are tremendously valuable,” Medina said.  “I truly hope they will become the future authors that I end up reading from and I hope in order to do that that they keep up reading and writing.”   

Rene Saldana Jr. grew up in Penitas, Texas, and has also written several books for young audiences.

“I think events like this one kind of bring light to the fact that there are folks who are Latino who are writing, and more especially who are from here in the Valley, which I think is important as well,” he said.  “The kids understand that they too can write about their own barrios here in Edinburg and not just have to read about neighborhoods in Boston or New York City, but their very own back yards can come to life in magical ways.”

Saldana currently teaches at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He also encouraged students to read for their enjoyment.

“I would encourage kids to read as much as possible to use their library as the wonderful resource that it is,” he said.  “I would encourage them, like I encourage my own sons and my daughter, to read just for themselves for their own entertainment instead of reading for the STARR and getting really bored by the active reading. Instead, just read just for fun for entertainment.”