Austin Dave, SCV News
Young imaginations are active in Santa Clarita, judging from a literacy and arts celebration Saturday afternoon in Newhall. For five years, the annual Literacy and Arts Festival has inspired children read and express themselves through art.
“(It’s) a day full of entertainment, education and activities highlighting the important role literacy and the performing arts play in enriching our community,” said Mayor Frank Ferry.
The free event is a joint venture of the city of Santa Clarita, the SCV Education Foundation and the Santa Clarita Public Library system. The festival promotes reading through activities such as a shadowbox, where participants can make their own puppets and act out scenes from literature. In past years, planners have held the event in local parks. This year, bookworms and art aficionados had a new venue. The Old Town Newhall Library opened its doors to eager readers and those looking to take in imaginative stories in stride.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Ann Unger, executive director of the SCV Education Foundation.
“We’re excited,” said Sue Reynolds, a foundation board member. “We have a gorgeous new venue and (a large crowd). It’s great.”
The 30,000-square-foot building offers more than 135,000 literary items as well as a series of artwork from local artists – features that further the mission of the SCV Education Foundation.
“It’s big. It’s a perfect fit,” Unger said.
Outside of the two-story building, “Poetry of the Page” attracted a mass of students and teachers eager to pair art with poems. The program influences the illustrative and physical expression of poetry.
“There are all sorts of ‘Read-to-Me’ activities and a puppet show,” Reynolds said.
The festival featured a variety of live performances including Placerita Junior High School’s rendition of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The “Journalist for a Day” workshop captivated the interests of aspiring journalists by partnering them with Saugus High School journalism students to report and write news stories about the event.
Using creative outlets, the SCV Education Foundation looks to support and engage youth in language arts-based activities by funding programs such as the Bag of Books Program, which encourages primary-grade students to read by taking home a bag containing four books weekly.
“We promote and support public school education in the Santa Clarita Valley (by) putting volunteers into schools to work in classrooms with children,” Unger said.
The foundation plans to partner with the city’s public libraries to begin an after-school program. The program originated in Newhall last year and concentrates on areas that don’t have easy access to books and are not within walking distance of a library.
“We’re receiving funding to expand it,” Unger said. “We do surveys and find that some kids do not have books at home. They may have one book at home. Maybe five books.”
Unger hopes to expand the program to four schools by the end of the year.