More than 800 Chelsea youths are expected to attend the 8th Annual Family Literacy Day: Chelsea Reads this Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Chelsea Public Library.
Sixty-five people attended the event in its first year but it has grown steadily in stature and significance to the point where it has become of the most popular one-day attractions in Chelsea for children and families.
“It has gotten so big that we’ve had to expand it to two floors of the library,” says Library Director Robert Collins proudly.
According to CPL Children’s Librarian Sarah Gay, the goals of Family Literacy day have remained the same: to offer a variety of literacy-based activities for kids that are interactive – to have them engaged at the various tables showing them each organization has something to offer as far as literacy goes.
Margo Johnson of MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, a founding pioneer of the event and one of its chief organizers, said the list of organizations participating includes: CAPIC, Chelsea Family Network, MGH Chelsea, Chelsea Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, Raising A Reader of Massachusetts, Boston Museum of Science. A Kangaroo’s Pouch, REACH Program, BHCC Child Focus Center, Latimer Society, St. Rose School, Harvard Museum of Natural History, and Chelsea Community Connections.
“To get all these different groups to buy into the event and participate in the planning and do an activity in these busy times when everyone is so stretched – that’s what impresses me the most,” said Collins. “There is no territorialism in Chelsea. Everyone chips in. If these groups didn’t buy into it, this event would not happen. It’s teamwork.”
City Manager Jay Ash and the Chelsea School Department are fully supportive of the event. In fact, Dr. Mary Bourque, superintendent of Chelsea schools, will serve as a celebrity guest reader, joining School Department official Gerry McCue, Chelsea Cable TV Executive Director Robert Bradley, Police Chief Brian Kyes, Officer Sammy Mojica, Sgt. David Flibotte, Centro Latino Executive Director Juan Vega, former School Committee member Elizabeth McBride, State Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, and State Sen. Sal DiDomenico in that capacity.
Volunteers from the Chelsea High Interact Club, led by teacher Ilana Ascher, and the CHS National Honor Society will assist at the event.
Children of all ages can expect a fun-filled extravaganza of reading, interactive tables, arts and crafts, and appearances by television and movie characters such as Shrek, Ernie, and Burt.
“We try to encourage guests to visit all the sites that are here on Literacy Day,” said Ron Robinson, executive director of the Latimer Society.
The pais-de-resistance on Literacy Day is that each child will receive a bag full of new books, a generous gesture by the organizing committee that is greatly appreciated by the parents especially.
Why has Family Literacy Day become such an important educational event in this city?
“I’ve always felt that in this diverse community it’s vital to stress the importance of literacy and the joy of reading books,” said Robinson.
“We saw the need to educate all our children about what a great institution the Chelsea Public Library is in our city and the increase in circulation and the number of library cards that are being issues affirms that Family Literacy Day has had a lot do with increasing the popularity of our library,” said Johnson. “But most importantly Family Literacy Day is Fun.”
Johnson said this year’s Family Literacy Day is being dedicated in memory of Liz Atkins, a lover of books and reading who passed away at the age of 23 in 2007. Johnson’s honors Atkins’s memory with her portable book store and other community events in which Margo gives away books with Liz’s label attached to each one.