Mobilizing Literacy, the Emporia Public Library, Kansas Free for Arts and Migrant Education teamed up Tuesday night in Peter Pan Park to give children a chance to have fun and celebrate literacy.

For about an hour, children played with stones, painted, danced, took part in a drum circle, painted pet rocks, and, if they were especially lucky, won a children’s book of their own to take home.

The event was called “Kids Rock” for a reason, as there was a lot of music and movement to help keep them engaged and occupied.

Parent Erin Woods brought her 5-year-old daughter Brynn to the park for the event because she thought it looked like fun.

The two decorated pet rocks, painted and played drums, among other activities.

“She wanted to play, of course, on the playground before we go home,” Woods said. “This is one of our favorite parks. So, yeah, it’s great. Emporia has so many great events in the summertime.”

She believed the event would encourage children to read more by letting them know that reading can be a fun, exciting activity.

“We’re big readers and having (Mobilizing Literacy) activities at places like the library and the park — it just makes it fun,” Woods said. “It encourages kids that reading is fun and it doesn’t have to be just about school and work or whatnot.”

Having the event outdoors on a nice day also encourages children to play outdoors more often, as opposed to spending all their time indoors on social media or playing video games,

“I think that’s the important thing — anything you can do to encourage reading and outside fun, play and music and drawing and art — it’s a great combo they’ve got tonight of all of those,” Woods said.

She said she planned to get her daughter, who enjoys space and science-related activities, signed up for the library’s summer reading program. Her daughter routinely attends summer events at the library. The theme of this summer’s program is “a universe of stories.”

Attendee Athena Loveall, 9, enjoyed painting pet rocks at the event.

“I like art and stuff,” she said. “Art gets me in the mood of happiness.”

She came to the event in the park because her mom told her about it and she thought it sounded like fun. Loveall said she knew lots of her family would probably attend the event, as well, and she wanted to spend time with them.

As a child who already likes to read, a literacy-focused event was fun for her.

The gathering included a book raffle.

Mobilizing Literacy Family Liaison Jodi Case spent the night handing out books to lucky winners.

She said she believed about 200 children attended the event.

The entire event was free of charge to the families who participated.

According to Case, the four agencies involved all have common goals in mind and the event stressed them all.

“We all have the same mission,” Case said. “We all want to make sure family engagement opportunities, we want to promote early literacy and encourage families to provide and support early literacy for young families.”

She believed parents of young participants will come away from the event more knowledgeable about the importance of reading to their children and of having books in their homes.

“Our mission right now is just to continue to build awareness of how literate a community we want to be and how to support our kids with early literacy,” Case said.

It’s valuable, she said, to kindergarten readiness, which is an important step toward the goal of making all children as successful as they can be.

“Making this a free opportunity — or a free event — it totally levels out the playing field,” Case said. “There isn’t anybody that’s separated. It’s all together.”

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