Each spring, the Chatham County Partnership for Children hosts a “Day of the Books” (or “El Día de los Libros”) children’s festival in Siler City. The event promotes literacy, the arts, early childhood education and multiculturalism — and on top of that, all children who attend receive free books.
This week, we spoke with CCPFC’s Genevieve Megginson, who led the effort to establish the organization and has served as its executive director since its founding in 1994, about this year’s “Day of the Books.” Megginson was recently named a member of the inaugural class of Chatham’s “6 Over 60” by the Chatham Council on Aging and the News + Record.
Why have a “Day of the Books”? What’s the goal for the day and the event?
Day of the Books was established in 2011 based on the “Day of the Child” celebration in Mexico and Central America. The event is a bilingual literacy festival that celebrates the many cultures in Siler City. Community is the heart of Hispanic culture; our event is an opportunity to connect with the community in Siler City, one of our main goals for the day.
We offer free food, fun activities, and an opportunity to connect with family support and literacy resources in the county. We are also putting bilingual books directly in the hands of families.
Obviously, the day centers around books. Why is putting books in the hands of children and families vital?
Research tells us that having books available to children is vital to developing pre-literacy skills. Even if the child or the caretaker are unable to read, it gives opportunity to connect and bond while looking at pictures and talking about what they see. Families can make up their own words or infer what is happening in the book from the pictures. Children are still getting exposure to literature whether the books can be read or not.
What have been the take-aways from previous “Day of the Books” events, and what impact have you been able to see?
We have had a great response to this event over the years. Families attending appreciate the focus on the importance of community involvement in the raising of children. The activities have varied each year but the focus on books and the ARTS has been consistent. Local artists provide fun and engaging activities that really enhance this event. The collaboration with all our community partners is what really makes this event special. The day is set up in a “market-style” arrangement with lots of interaction between vendors and visitors, just like you might find on market day in a city in Latin America!
Tell us about the kinds of books that will be given away ...
We give away new and lightly used books for all ages. There will be bilingual books as well as books in just one language. We collaborate with our partners at Chatham Literacy and the Chatham Education Foundation/Chatham Reads to ensure we have an ample supply of books for our families.
What do families planning to attend need to know before they come?
Families should be prepared for the possibility of getting messy. We provide a variety of hands-on opportunities to get involved in the artistic process. If their child is sensitive to loud noises, they should plan to come earlier in the day. There will be aerial performances, music and several opportunities for artistic expression.
Aside from book giveaways, what else will happen?
We are very excited for the artists and performers who are planning on attending this year. We will have canvas painting, drum making, and weaving available for families to participate in. There will be music, performances and story-telling in English and Spanish. There will also be family support agencies passing out information. Along with the books this year we have a great selection of children’s lunch boxes that have been donated. We will give those out on a first-come basis until they run out. We are also moving to reusable string backpack-style bags instead of plastic bags for our events; we hope to have a specially designed bag ready for this event.
How is Day of the Books being funded?
This event is funded by Smart Start and a Chatham Arts Councils Grassroots Grant to support the artists and performers for the event and by our Champions for Children sponsors, Connie Fenner State Farm agent and Mountaire Farms. Chatham County Schools contributes to the cost of the food and this year we are receiving donated chicken from Mountaire Farms that will be cooked by Bestfood Cafeteria for the hot lunch that will be provided to all attendees.
Day of the Books is a great example of how well our county comes together for our children and Partnership for Children is proud to continue to host this event annually.