Meet Briana Lara.
The eight-year-old wears jeans, pink sneakers with yellow laces and a t-shirt that says: “Keep Calm and Shine On.” When she smiles, she surprises you with dimples.
Briana is one among many in Sonoma County benefiting from Fund-The-Future, the group lot that raised a record-breaking $1.7 million for literacy at last year’s Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction.
At Sunday’s auction the bidding for the Fund-the-Future lot is expected to be infectious. Last year paddle-holders bid from $250 to $100,000-plus.
The format in bidding is for paddle-holders to stand when the auctioneer calls out various amounts. Of course people who aren’t planning to go to the auction can still play a role in the literacy campaign at any time online by visiting online at any time here.
A portion of last year’s funding was funneled into a reading program at Santa Rosa’s Lincoln Elementary School; Briana now has one-on-one help from a reading specialist.
Briana’s mother, Niria Avila, is a single mother with four children. She said without this funding it would be “next to impossible” to help Briana.
“Even in a household of two parents it’s really hard financially,” Avila said. “Imagine in a house of one.”
Avila, who works as a home health aide, said she appreciates the help because intimidated kids can get left behind when the ratio in the classroom is one teacher to 20 students.
“I know from experience that a child can get lost in a class, and Briana is pretty shy,” Avila said.
When Briana works with a specialist, she reads and then writes in a journal about what certain passages mean. Her favorite book series is “Fancy Nancy” because she said Nancy is so colorful and determined. The small-framed fashionista is known to wear tutus and her mother’s high heel shoes.
“What I like best about Nancy is that if she wants something, she’ll try hard to get it,” Briana said.
This third grader said last year “reading was a little bit hard,” but it’s easier this year.
Right now roughly 54 percent of all third grade students in Sonoma County are reading below proficiency levels, and the wine community is hoping to increase the third grade literacy rate to 90 percent by 2018 through its Fund-the-Future campaign.
The money raised in Fund-The-Future is an investment in potential and there’s always a face behind it. In Briana’s case, a smiling one with dimples.