Birthday Books From Coco

Colette “Coco” Lazenby was a voracious reader who nearly always had a book in her hand. She was particularly fond of fantasy series, such as Harry Potter, Maximum Ride and The Hunger Games.

In August 2015, Coco was killed at age 12 in a car accident. To honor her love of reading, her parents, Kate Pavao and Aaron Lazenby, joined with Starlight Elementary Principal Jaclynne Medina to launch the Birthday Books From Coco. This unique program offers participating schools with books in English and Spanish so that all students are gifted with a book of their own choosing on their birthdays.

Birthday Books From Coco is now a cornerstone of the Live Like Coco Foundation, a non- profit focused on making sure kids in Santa Cruz County grow up healthy, and with opportunities to pursue their dreams. As of the 2016-2017 school year, we reach more than 5,000 K-5 students in 10 schools across Santa Cruz county.

Birthday Books From Coco was inspired by Richard L. Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen’s book Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap. The authors found that putting books into the hands of students from marginalized populations can shrink the achievement gap – and create lifelong learners. Birthday Books From Coco not only gives books to students who need them, but also strengthens the idea that a book is a gift.

While there are no specific socio-economic qualifications for schools to participate, many students are from families that financially struggle; at the four currently participating schools, between 72 and 95 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. In June 2016, a Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury report honored Birthday Books From Coco as one of six county, city and private groups making a difference, noting, “For many of these children it is the first book they have owned.”