News Report, April Suwalsky

More than 1500 Richmond community members and dozens of local partner organizations came together on Sunday, April 29, in Richmond, California, for the third annual Richmond Tales Fest: An Afternoon of Family Literacy and Healthy Living. The event was held at the Richmond Civic Center—activities were stationed at the outdoor plaza, Richmond Memorial Auditorium, and Public Library–which held special open hours for the event. The major community collaboration focusing on family literacy and healthy living featured a wide range of educational and fun, family activities. Dignitaries, including Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Superintendent Bruce Harter, and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, also participated with remarks.

Now in its third year, the event was inspired by the local history and healthy living as documented in the beloved book, Richmond Tales: Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle, by Summer Brenner. Students and families across Richmond and throughout the region have embraced Richmond Tales since its publication in 2009 (Time & Again Press.) “I really like this book,” said Brenda S., a WCCUSD sixth grader. “It’s the one I read the most! I think it’s important for kids because it’s a good story talking about Richmond, and if the kids come to know about it, then they will learn about Richmond, and learn more about what it means to be here.”

At the festival, attendees had the opportunity to “visit” several places inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds in Richmond Tales–such as an organic garden and the Ohlone Village—as well as map their “travels” through time and across these geographies. “The festival affirms that the book belongs to the youth, the families, the teachers, and the diverse communities of Richmond. It’s their book. I’m tremendously proud to have been its midwife,” stated Summer Brenner, author of Richmond Tales.

As part of the ongoing efforts in Richmond to foster family literacy, health and environmental sustainability, the Richmond Tales Fest was spearheaded by West County Reads, Richmond College Prep Schools, and the Screen Free Week Consortium, with presenting sponsorship of Kaiser Permanente. The festival highlighted healthy ways of living, resources, and community building so that families can thrive in Richmond. “This event is in line with our prevention focus and focus on total health,” said Glenda Monterroza, Community Benefits Specialist at Kaiser Permanente. “Through the themes of literacy and healthy living we aim to empower families to make healthy life choices.”

The Richmond Tales Fest also served as the kick-off of the Richmond community’s observance of Screen Free Week–a national celebration where families, schools, and communities turn off entertainment screen media for seven days–offering families fun and healthy alternatives to televisions and video games. “We hope to inspire families to ‘unplug,’” Monterroza said. “The Richmond Tales event will showcase a number of activities that families can do at home rather than watch TV, play video games or sit in front of a computer.”

There was a community spirit and energy in the air that lasted throughout the day. Event organizers expressed that they were thrilled to see a vision realized and the event continue to grow from year to year. Event co-coordinator, Tana Monteiro—a parent at RCP Schools and community liaison—stated that on several occasions she had tears of happiness because the event was “so beautiful.” Similarly, as planning committee members passed each other on the plaza, there were high fives, fist bumps and spontaneous group hugs in celebration of the positive tone of the day. “THIS is Richmond!” exclaimed Nicole Valentino, Community Advocate in the Office of the Mayor.

Free children’s books were distributed to all young readers. Performing arts entertainment ran throughout the day, and included: Vamos a Leer, Native American drumming, youth poetry, readings from Richmond Tales, Mien Legends, youth dancers and gospel choir from Richmond College Prep Schools, and more. Family activities included the Family Literacy Project, literacy games facilitated by volunteers from BuildOn, gardening displays, and literacy workshops/resources for adults, such as GED preparation and family financial literacy.

Event co-coordinator Kevin Hufferd reported initial results from the survey evaluations that were collected. Everyone surveyed (100%) said they would participate in the Fest again next year. Many new families were reached with this year’s festival: 78% were attending the Richmond Tales Festival for the first time. A clear majority (64%) said the festival had inspired them to increase how often they read each day. “It was amazing,” Hufferd stated. “We hit a home run,” he said.

This event was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and in collaboration with West County Reads, Richmond College Prep Schools, the City of Richmond, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, WCCUSD, Richmond Community Foundation, Vamos a Leer, and Screen Free Week.

 

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