Local News West Edition

Festival provides free books for low-income young children

WILMINGTON — Nearly 3,000 families attended the “Fall Into Literacy” Book Festival Oct. 10 at the Banning Museum here.

During the event — hosted by United Way of Greater Los Angeles and sponsors Valero, Phillips 66 Los Angeles Refinery, the Office of Recreation and Park and City Councilman Joe Buscaino — more than 4,000 books were donated to low-income families in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of reading.

In attendance were more than 30 community agencies that participated as exhibitors, 13 local authors, and popular children’s characters Curious George and Madeline, who greeted the crowd of festival goers. Participants also enjoyed author book signings and readings, family-oriented activities and musical entertainment by Cambalache.

“We had a great turnout,” said Cesar Guerrero, education program coordinator at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, who oversees the organization’s Success by Six initiative. “United Way knows that literacy is a key factor in helping to end generational poverty for many low-income families through education. This is why we’ve partnered with nonprofit organizations, sponsors and Councilman Buscaino’s office to make this local book festival and book giveaway happen.”

More than 80 percent of Los Angeles school children live in poverty and face dramatic literacy gaps before they enter kindergarten.

A recent UC Berkeley study found that low-income Latino and black toddlers fall behind their white peers in language development by age 2 — a gap of almost 30 million words by age 3.

United Way knows that literacy — especially early literacy — provides a strong foundation for a child’s life-long academic success, Guerrero said. That is why, for the past five years, the United Way’s Success by Six initiative has helped parents and young students in Wilmington gain literacy skills through the Motheread, Inc. program.

The Fall Into Literacy Book Festival is a cornerstone of the initiative, which reaches thousands of low-income families and brings together a diverse coalition of community stakeholders and partners to celebrate the importance of literacy for families, Guerrero said.

Through book giveaways, literacy activities and resources, the event ensures that low-income families have the knowledge and information necessary to bridge the large literacy gap that contributes to inter-generational poverty.