Saturday’s Dia De Los Niños; Dia De Los Libros event celebrates children, literacy

 

STOCKTON — For Sammy Nuñez, a community is doing well if it is focused on its children’s welfare.

“Any time we make decisions based on what’s the impact going to be on our children, I think we’re on the right track,” said Nuñez, founder of Fathers & Families of San Joaquin. “If they’re happy and well, we’re happy and well.”

So on Saturday, Fathers & Families of San Joaquin is holding a tribute to Stockton’s young residents with its second annual “Dia De Los Niños; Dia De Los Libros” (Children’s Day; Day of the Books) event from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at McKinley Park, 424 E. 9th St.

Organizers said it’s a free event meant to celebrate children and literacy, but also families so people of all ages are encouraged to attend.

“What we usually say is, ‘Children protected, elders respected and families connected,’ ” Nuñez said. “That’s really what the theme is of almost everything we do; this is not different, except this is centered on children’s well-being.”

While Children’s Day is observed across the world on various dates, in Mexico Dia De Los Niños has been a tradition celebrated in April since 1924, when the country signed the Geneva Convention as a way to reaffirm children’s rights.

Children are an important part of society and it’s important that they feel loved, safe and cared for by their community and by the adults around them, Nuñez said.

Dia De Los Niños organizers want children throughout Stockton, which in 2017 was home to more than 84,000 kids, to have these events and gatherings to create lasting happy memories of places they visited growing up.

“Every day should be a big day to celebrate children,” he said.

Saturday’s event also is a celebration of literacy as the organization plans to give away books.

Literacy continues to be a struggle facing Stockton kids, Nuñez said.

University of the Pacific in January released its sixth annual Literacy Report Card, which measures the percentage of third-graders reading at or better than grade-level.

According to the report, Stockton Unified School District continues to lag behind other San Joaquin County districts with only 24.5 percent of students having reached or surpassed the benchmark. The state average is 49 percent.

Lincoln Unified was reported to be closest to the state average with 48.2 percent, followed by Lodi (42.7 percent), Manteca (42.2 percent) and Tracy (40 percent).

Literacy is deeply connected to children’s well-being and an indicator of their outcomes and future opportunities, Nuñez said. While he is encouraged by changes in leadership at the school district and the strides being made in the city, Nuñez believes more can be done.

“We literally have thousands of books that have been donated to us; we want to put those thousands of books into thousands of children’s hands,” he said. “We want to make sure our children have access to literature.”

There is no cost to attend Dia De Los Niños; Dia De Los Libros on Saturday. Organizers said there will be music, free food, raffles, games and activities.

“At the end of the day, we want our community to know we’re here for them, that we want to support them in any way that we can,” Nuñez said. “I can’t think of anything better than to spend the day serving our families and our children.”