Falling for festival’s literacy

Story by Melissa Amezcua

Pictures courtesy Joe Macias, Media Image Public

Hundreds of families came out to the Banning Museum last Saturday to support the Sixth Annual Fall Into Literacy Community Book Festival in the city of Wilmington. The event was presented by United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Valero, and Phillips 66 Los Angeles Refinery. The event featured book readings by guest authors Dr. Frances Gipson, Chief Academic Officer for the LAUSD and Senator Isadore Hall, III  representing the 35th Senate District. The focus of the event according to United Way representative Elmer Roldan, 37, was to expand focus to include everyone in the family rather than just being a literacy event. Some of these services include housing and utility programs for low-income families.

With half their faces painted as a skeleton, the traditional Ballet Folklorico dancers emphasized the Dia de Los Muertos theme running along the festival. The dancers never missed a beat even when faced with technical difficulties with the speakers. The crowd clapped along with the dancers steps filling in where the speakers failed. Reading stations were all over the festival. One of the stations was a set up of small tents with pillows and blankets inside for the kids to lay down while volunteers read to them. There was face painting and rock climbing and many booths had arts and crafts for the kids. Kids decorated faces matched those of the dancers while others had a whimsical feel to them.

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The event emphasized a focus on education and the importance of it along with reading to introduce literacy at a young age. The grassroots Success by 6 is where the beginnings of this annual event came about. Cesar Guerrero was a part of this grassroots and whose family along with other families in the South Bay area where bussed to Los Angeles to the annual Feria de Libro event. When this ended due to a change in event coordinators these families were left without a way to attend. He understands and experienced first hand the importance that literacy can make in a young child’s life. Cesar Guerrero, 25, is with the non-profit organization United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

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Families received a free book for each child, with more than 4,000 books donated to local families this day. Gaby Medina, 33, Councilmember for Joe Buscaino says, “it’s an opportunity to visit a historical landmark and bring the family to receive a free book.” The event was capped off with a live music performance by Quitapenas that had smiling children dancing around in the grass.

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