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SILER CITY — The Chatham County Partnership for Children’s annual Day of the Books celebration distributed about 200 new and used bilingual books in English and Spanish to nearly 150 children last Saturday at Bray Park.
“The Day of the Books 2021 went even better than we thought it would,” the Partnership’s program director, Elizabeth Anderson, told the News + Record. “We weren’t sure what to expect with a drive-thru event during the middle of a pandemic, but the drive-thru format of the event worked very well and we had a larger turnout than expected.”
From 10 a.m. to noon, 68 cars rode through, carrying 92 adults and 147 children.
“We also had a few parents and kiddos that showed up on foot,” Anderson added, “so in total we probably had roughly 250 participants in Day of the Books.”
Begun in 2008, the Partnership’s Day of the Books event is “a celebration of literacy and multiculturalism, bilingualism and the arts,” according to Anderson. Normally, the event — created primarily for young children up to 5th grade, plus their families — hosts local artists and performances, organizes interactive activities and distributes free bilingual books.
“One of our goals at the Chatham County Partnership for Children is to promote literacy in young children in our county,” Anderson told the News + Record in late April, “and Day of the Books is one way that we can get books out to kids and families so that they can practice reading together and promote literacy.”
Last year, pandemic restrictions forced the Partnership to hold a no-contact drive-in. This year, the organization partnered with the Chatham County Public Health Department to plan a safe drive-thru event. Twelve community organizations — including the Partnership, the Hispanic Liaison and Chatham Education Foundation — set up stations to provide resources and giveaways to families driving through.
At the end, the Partnership gave away about 150 brand new bilingual books, plus another 50 gently used books to children from birth to 5th grade. The Chatham Education Foundation handed out another 450 or so books from its own station, giving three to each child.
Families also left with picnic lunches from Angelina’s Kitchen, which the Chatham County Schools provided. The Partnership gave away all 150 lunches, according to Anderson.
Five artists, funded by the Chatham Arts Council and North Carolina Arts Council, also performed for families while they drove through.
Cross-cultural percussionist Beverly Botsford played the drums, Katja Noelani Wise performed hula hoop tricks and Katie Rebich walked on stilts. Visual artist JR Butler also painted a mural of animals in real time, while Takiri Folclor Latino dancers performed traditional Latin dances.
Performances and giveaways followed an “animal masquerade” theme, based on a children’s book of the same name. Many community volunteers also dressed up as various animals.
“Kids were so thrilled to see the artists, and I heard a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from kids when they pulled up and saw a polar bear on stilts and a hula-hooping cat and the Takiri dancer’s colorful dresses swirling around,” Anderson said, adding, “All in all, the day was a huge success. There was a wonderful community festival spirit, and it was lovely for kids, families, and community organizations to come together after a year of isolation.”
Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.