“I would like to have my own company and be known around the world.” 

Thiago participates in Save the Children’s school-age literacy programs, and loves dressing up for “Fancy Fridays” – just one of the creative ways he expresses himself.  

Even at the young age of 3, Thiago knew what he wanted.

Growing up in Tulare County, California is challenging for children. There’s a lot of poverty -- there’s no community center, no libraries and the under-funded preschool is limited to only three hours a day. Plus, the school is always in need of more books and more supplies to feed young minds and bellies. But at just three years old, Thiago started to ask about preschool. He wanted to go.

Diana, a Save the Children Early Steps to School Success Coordinator met young Thiago and his mother while she was in the neighborhood visiting another family. A shy smile and a wave from Thiago’s mother Norma turned into a friendly conversation with Diana, and soon Thiago was enrolled in preschool.

There, his love of literacy was born. Through activities, puppets and sing-alongs, Thiago was able to engage in a story in many different ways, motivating him to read more books and foster his imagination.

Today as an 11-year old, Thiago faces different challenges – like the violence and drugs that run rampant in his small community. His love for reading is helping him pursue a different path than many of the young men in his community. To keep reading, Thiago engaged in a Save the Children Summer Reading Challenge, where he read 30-60 mins a day, 7 days a week. He won the challenge and was awarded free pass to the zoo for a year for his whole family! The family saves up $30-40 every month to travel 60 miles to go to the zoo – it’s an important priority for them.

“My favorite book from the Summer Reading Challenge has to be Mr. Wolf's Class because the main character - he's kind of like me,” Thiago said. “I have all these ideas, just I have trouble getting them down on paper. He's the same way.”

11-year-old Thiago wears a spiffy suit jacket, vest and tie. His Covid mask is pulled beneath his chin, so we can see his bright smile. His smile and nice clothing don’t tell the stories of where he lives – a poverty stricken area of Central Valley, California. There are no libraries, no preschools and it’s a half-hour drive to the nearest grocery store. Photo credit: Victoria Zegler / Save the Children, July 2021.

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