More than 500 parents and their children turned out Saturday for the Mar Vista Family Center’s 7th Annual Literacy Fair.
The free event was titled, “Tell me a Story” and when they arrived at 10 a.m., the children sat right down in the facilities courtyard to listen to story readings from young television celebrities including Nick and Dan Benson from Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
“At the far end of town where the grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows,” 17-year-old Benson read from the Dr. Seuss’ book The Lorax.
Approximately 25 children, ranging from 6 months to 11 years old sat on carpet swatches and curly snake pillows hugging their parents, listening intently.
The book chronicles the plight of the environment and was voted a favorite on the center's Facebook page. It was one of many read aloud to the children by members of the community during the fair.
According to the center's website, its goal is "to engage parents as partners in the education of their children.”
Lucia Diaz, the center's new chief executive officer, used the occasion of the fair to open the newly refurbished library upstairs in the center's main building, where the shelves were stocked with a variety of children’s books, in both Spanish and English.
Single mother Migdalia Aguirre brought her 6-year-old daughter Dahlia to the fair, and said she reads to her every night.
“I do see the difference with her,” she said. “She is more open-minded, she wants to learn more, she asks questions. Even at a young age she is paying attention and she knows what the story is about.”
Sponsored by the Del Rey Neighborhood Council in conjunction with Sony Pictures and City National Bank, the event was staffed by volunteers from the Mar Vista community. They cooked lunch, handed out book bags, painted faces and read to the children.
Many of the volunteers are alumni of the center’s youth programs including the “Early Childhood Education” program and the “By Youth For Youth” program, whose goal is to offer alternatives to gang life in the area.
Field Weber from the Playa Vista Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library gave out free books; Books and Cookies, a company in Santa Monica, let the children decorate their own cookies, and the EcoStation of Culver City brought a common green iguana, a Russian tortoise and a Mali spiny tailed lizard (who was really happy the weather was hot) for the kids to see. Members of the Loyola Creare Service Organization also helped with the storytelling.
Lunch was hot dogs, chips, apples and juice, donated by and the Mar Vista Family Center's staff.
Diaz said the Mar Vista Family Center is now 100 percent privately funded and that it takes $1.4 million to run its programs.
“We are in desperate need of donations to make it to the end of the year," she said. "We especially need funding for our Summer Day Camp Program that benefits about 150 children and creates jobs for the community."