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Mr. Limata Has a Story to Tell

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After COVID-19 forced school closures, Mr. Limata wanted to find a way to really connect with his first-grade students in the vast and often impersonal virtual space. He also sensed a need among older members of the community suddenly detached from each other. The Oakland teacher turned his own love for reading into an opportunity to share and inspire the young and the “young at heart.”

While Peter Limata’s Emerson Elementary classroom remains shuttered, the teacher has created an amazing online space where he now reaches far more students and adults with one of the best parts of first-grade life: story time. 

Every Monday through Friday at 10:30 a.m., Mr. Limata reads a children’s book and invites conversation and comments before, during and after each reading. People from all the world can and do join in on Facebook Live or catch up with the recorded version when they can. The charismatic teacher who himself journeyed from Zambia to Oakland has found a recipe for connecting people from all walks and stretches of life.

His accent and bright smile fill the screen with joy and positivity, refreshing qualities in any circumstance but so desperately needed in the pandemic age. Mr. Limata starts each week explaining which books he’s selected and shares why he loves the story and how it relates to what’s going on. His choices are intentional and often pave a gentle way to discussion of important topics like racial justice. 

Peter Limata (Mr. Limata) of Oakland’s Emerson Elementary School has found a way to reach into the hearts and minds of young and “young at heart” with his weekday story time readings open to all who want to share his love of reading. (Photo courtesy of Story Time with Mr. Limata/Facebook)

For example, Wednesday’s story selection highlights the powerhouse that was Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968. Chisholm is widely seen as the woman who broke down boundaries and carved the road that Oakland-native Kamala Harris has since traveled to become the first Black and South Asian woman elected as vice president. To mark the historic Inauguration Day, Mr. Limata will read “She Was the First” written by Katheryn Russel-Brown to the young and old alike.

The teacher’s infectious love for reading was noticed in May by Ellen DeGeneres, who called to tell him he’d be receiving $25,000 to help him keep the reading venture going — another $25,000 was donated to the Emerson Elementary School where he teaches.

Mr. Limata is a walking, talking testament to the ripple effect of kindness.

While he’s obviously one of those special people just made for teaching young minds, his spirit is a gift for all. If you’re having a hard day, I highly suggest going old school, literally. Bust out the milk and cookies and sit down for story time courtesy of Oakland’s own Mr. Limata and your mood will brighten, guaranteed. 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.