Books Matter: Ashley Toscano

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here.

By Sadie Hopkins

Ashley Toscano, who was named Teacher of the Year in the Waco Independent School District, teaches the spectrum of subjects to 22 multicultural third grade students at Hilcrest PDS elementary. 

“As a teacher I’m constantly telling my students to read for fun at home,” Toscano said. “I think it’s important that they have a model for that though. So, I try to be the example by going home and reading at least something every night.” 

She said she was impacted by many books in college, but her favorite would have to be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. She explains how it focuses on a young German orphan during World War II who was adopted into a radical family who hides a Jewish teenager. Toscano said one of her favorite themes in the book was that the little orphan girl steals books because she loves words and thinks they’re magical. 

“Interestingly the book is in the point of view of death. Death is almost a narrator in the book, watching it all take place,” Toscano said. “Because of everything that is happening in the concentration camps, he sees how terrible human beings are to each other. But he is choosing to focus on this child who is different from everyone else.”

She emphasized how The Book Thief isn’t a happy go lucky story, but that it carries a much more meaningful lesson than most. 

“One of the key themes would be the sanctity of life. The way someone lives and the way someone dies says a lot about them,” Toscano said. “I learned it’s really important to not take our lives for granted, because we are blessed with freedoms that years ago not everyone had.”

Toscano said she tries to read a picture book a day to her students to show the importance of reading for fun.

“I just try to really keep a culture of reading in my classroom,” Toscano said. “Every day our lessons focus on using real literature.”