“What good can a splash of color do in a community of gray? As Mira and her neighbors discover, more than you might ever imagine!”
So begins Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, the children’s book written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez, which was read across the nation last Thursday, including at Queens Library, Long Island City.
The reading was part of Jumpstart’s 13th annual Read for the Record, a yearly event that brings together millions of people in classrooms, libraries, community centers, and homes across the country by encouraging them to read the same book on the same day. The campaign was launched over a decade ago to highlight the importance of building early literacy and language skills for every child, a concept that The Child Center of NY strongly supports and lives by.
About 35 young children and caregivers gathered for the event, sponsored jointly by Queens Library and The Child Center of NY’s Astoria Parent-Child Home Program, a nationally recognized parenting and literacy model that provides parents with the knowledge and resources to build school readiness where it starts: the home.
Child Center and Library staff read the book in English and Spanish.
“The theme of the book really connected with families who live in communities that may be marginalized, but who know that there is strength and beauty in all communities, including theirs,” reports Telva Rivera, Program Coordinator of the Astoria PCHP. “It’s a theme at the heart of The Child Center, the Parent-Child Home Program, and the Queens Public Library, as well. We all want to build communities that are resilient and for families to have equitable opportunities for success.”
Rivera also noted that the collaboration between The Child Center and the Long Island City Queens Public Library allowed us to serve more families and resulted in richer conversations among the participants. The evening session had children who ranged in age from toddler to school age. The older children connected with questions about what a muralist does, while the younger children were happy talking about the different colors used by the artist.
Families also were given paintbrushes to pretend they were painting along with the story, which kept the children engaged and connected to what they were hearing. They created a mural using a variety of media, and free books of the story were given to all families.
“The event was a great success,” says Rivera. “A collaboration between The Child Center of NY, Parent-Child Home Program, Queens Library, and Jumpstart shows how programs can partner together to best serve the community. Resources such as Jumpstart’s event planning materials, the local space provided by Queens Library, Child Center of NY staff, and Parent-Child Home Program techniques were pooled together and created an opportunity for families in the community to have a wonderful time.”
Families agreed. Viridiana, aunt to 2-year-old Oliver (a PCHP client) and his caregiver while his parents work, said after the event, “Disfrute mucho el evento. Me gusto mucho el libro. Disfrute el arte y la actividad que hicimos que se trato del libro. Oliver encontro la actividad muy interesante y divertida. Se divertio tanto pintando que no queria ir a casa. Fue importante ir al evento para compartir con las familias que estan en el programa. Quiero que Oliver conosca a otros niños del programa. Deseo que Oliver aprenda cosas nuevas.” (“We enjoyed the event very much. I really liked the book. We enjoyed the art activity we did that was about the book. Oliver found the activity very interesting and fun. He had so much fun painting that he did not want to go home. It was important to go to the event to share with the families that are in the program. I want Oliver to meet other children in the program. I want Oliver to learn new things.”)
This was not the first monthly event organized by PCHP, but it was one of the largest, and, importantly, one that was open to the community.
PCHP often organizes monthly events and socialization groups. Previous events have included a visit to the local Fire Department, and a future trip to the community’s farmer’s markets is planned for next month. In April, PCHP will partner with a local Pre-K for All program and Literacy Inc. to provide a workshop for parents on best practices when reading.
In between are “routine” events that happen regularly, involving information dissemination specific to our families.
But last week’s Read for the Record event provided a model for future events based on collaboration with other community groups.
“We do hope to continue partnering with other City First Readers partners,” Rivera noted. “We have done Read for the Record Events in the past, but this is the first time we have opened it up to the community. I look forward to next year’s Read for the Record and possibly expanding to the Astoria Library branch as well.”