A Good Read: Chelsea Public Library Hosts Family Literacy Month

When Margo Johnson helped found Chelsea’s Family Literacy Day 16 years ago, she never could have anticipated the mega-event it would become for local schoolchildren.

Turn the clock ahead to today and Johnson is still involved in the celebration of reading, teaming up with CPL Librarian Sarah Gay Jackson, Children’s Librarian Katherine Palencia, Library Assistants Amanda Arsenault and Yareli Arenas, and Guadalupe Panameno of Raising A Reader to make sure the tradition continues.

Arsenault is in her second year as one of the major planners of the event and the month-long activities which will be all virtual again this year.

“I was 10 years old myself when I first learned of this event, but I’ve been seeing it for several years,” said Arsenault. “I’ve worked at the Library for eight years now, and I’ve been watching it progress, and it’s very beautiful.”

 Johnson said she is excited about the festivities which are held in coordination with National Family Literacy Month.

“The goal is to promote family literacy and I think the goal is working,” said Johnson.

While more than 1,000 young readers have attended past Family Literacy Days, Arsenaults expects to well exceed that number virtually.  “We were up 600 percent in online viewers during the pandemic,” said Arsenault.

Last year, the Library distributed 200 craft kits and hundreds of free book bags. Families will again be required to wear masks when they come to the Library to receive their free book bags.

Many Activities are Planned

This year’s Literacy Month schedule is packed with activities, including a Story Walk outside the Library, a scavenger hunt, and guest appearances. Local organizations such as GreenRoots, Chelsea Prospers, and HubCats Chelsea will be participating in the events.

“We also have a community cookbook that we’ll be premiering in the third week of November,” said Arsenault. “Anyone who has a recipe that they want to submit to us, we’re going to put them all together in a collaborative piece and then we’ll print it for the public, which I think will be really fun and exciting.”

Arsenault said the month’s schedule of activities will consist of four different themes: traditional and non-traditional storytelling (such as using art and pictures to tell stories); nature and environment; colors and sensory involvement; and health and wellness.

Raising A Reader Making an Impact

Guadalupe Panameno said the non-profit Raising A Reader organization has been collaborating with the Chelsea Public Library since the inception of Family Literacy Day.

“This year, we are providing some digital resources that we have created during the pandemic,” said Panameno. “We’re also going to have conversations with parents about how to read with your child. We’re going to be kicking off the Chelsea celebration with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday. We’re so appreciative of the Chelsea Public Library for hosting our first office here when the Raising A Reader program started.”

Raising A Reader has donated a new piece of furniture to the CPL Children’s Department that will be unveiled next week.

“It looks great,” said Arsenault, who wouldn’t reveal what the exciting addition to the Library will be.

Readership is up at the Chelsea Library

Chelsea residents’ visits and use of CPL resources are increasing, according to Palencia, who has been the Children’s Librarian for the past two years.

Palencia said the staff is excited to once again host Family Literacy Day activities.

“We’re very excited for the free book distribution and to receive donations for the event,” said Palencia. “We welcome children and families to be a part of this great event.”

Palencia lauded the Chelsea Police Department and the Chelsea Fire Department for their generous donations to the Library.

“We’re going to have an outdoor story time at John Ruiz Park (on Washington Avenue) on the last day of our schedule, and the Chelsea Police Department will have their comfort dog, Brute, there.”

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