Elgin teacher pens children's book to instill love for reading, writing
Once he learned to read and write, Raul Castillo was hooked on the power he felt from having such skills.
Coming from a poor family and raised by a single mother, Castillo soon learned the value of education.
In his native Mexico, Castillo was sought after for this knowledge and would get paid in treats for helping his peers with reading.
"I saw the benefits," said the 53-year-old from Huntley who now teaches Spanish at Elgin High School.
Since then, it has been his life's pursuit to pass on this knowledge to others.
Castillo recently released a Spanish children's book, "La Bruja Que No Fue A La Escuela" (The Witch Who Never Went to School), with the goal of educating Latino families about the joys of writing and reading.
"There is no bigger power than being able to read and write," he said.
The book is written from the perspective of a grandfather relating a story to his grandson about the day he met an all-powerful witch looking for a school where she could learn to read and write.
A teacher for 33 years, Castillo has tried to impress upon his students the importance of education. The idea for the book struck him 16 years ago when he was a bilingual teacher at Sunnydale Elementary School in Streamwood.
"I saw the need of having books written by Hispanic authors," said Castillo, adding many of the children's books available at the time didn't offer a cultural perspective. "If you put it in a book with a character they can relate to, they understand it (better)."
Castillo's wife, Patricia Sanchez, did the illustrations for the story, which initially was written by pen on construction paper.
He read the story to his bilingual students for four years, and also to the children of friends and neighbors, with the hope of stirring their passions for reading.
It wasn't until last summer when Castillo decided to publish the story, taking the advice of a motivational speaker who visited his Elgin High classroom.
"Unfortunately, maybe only 10 percent of the (Latino) parents do reading with children," he said. "That is one of the big mistakes immigrant families do (make)."
In most cases, immigrant Latino parents spend much of their time working to put food on the table and paying for necessities, he said.
"I see that need and I hope this book helps with understanding how important education is," he said. "If I write a following book, it will be about spending time with kids on their education."
Castillo published another book he penned five years ago titled "100 Latinos 100 Historias." Both books are available on amazon.com.
"In the future," he said, "I plan to write children's books with the same message about education."