HANFORD — Saturday, Inspire California, along with the Kings County Library and Children's Storybook Garden and Museum, hosted a free community literacy event at the Hanford Library that was attended by over a hundred local grade schoolers.

Saturday's holiday community event, entitled 'Kid's Day', provided kids with the opportunity to participate in a variety of holiday themed activities. Activities included participating in coloring stations, reading circles and making ginger bread Christmas decorations.

In addition to the various activities, each student who attended was able to pick two free children's books to take home with them as part of Inspire California's holiday book drive, which collected hundreds of dollars-worth of free children's books from drop boxes across the Central Valley and one located in the State Capitol.

Aaron Brieno, Hanford native and founder of Inspire California, organized this literacy event with the dual objective of providing meaningful opportunities for Inspire California high school student participants to volunteer in their community and promoting early childhood literacy within the Valley.

"I organized this children's literacy book drive so that our high school student participants could see the importance of giving back to their community," Brieno said.

Inspire California is a community-based organization that provides comprehensive college preparatory counseling, professional development and mentoring opportunities to Central Valley high school students.

Inspire California students from Hanford High, Hanford West and Sierra Pacific high schools volunteered at Kid's Day, leading small reading groups, coloring stations and ginger bread decorating.

"It was absolutely fun working with the kids. It's amazing to see how much they enjoy reading and expressing their creativity,” Irene Botello, a junior at Sierra Pacific, said. “Working with them has opened my eyes to what it truly means to give back to our community. I would love to do it again and come back after high school to continue inspiring our kids."

"The community turnout for this Saturday's Kid's Day children's book drive greatly exceeded my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many families from our community attend and I am really glad that so many children could leave with free books,” Brieno said. “I was very proud of our Inspire California high school volunteers and all the hard work they invested preparing for this event.”

Tanya Russell, manager of the Kings County Library Hanford branch, said the library was very excited to partner with Inspire California for another successful community outreach event.

“The teen workers from Inspire California were very helpful and professional, already serving their community as future leaders,” Russell said. “Aaron Brieno deserves a lot of credit for serving the Hanford community in this way, in addition to mentoring students."

In addition to the donations made at a variety of Central Valley donation locations, a large number of children's books were donated by legislative staffers from the California State Capitol, where Brieno works as the legislative director for California State Senator Ben Hueso (San Diego).

"I was tremendously grateful for all of the books donated by co-workers and Capitol staffers at the donation box I left in our Capitol office,” Brieno said. “I am also very thankful for all of the generous book donations received at our many drop boxes across the Central Valley. Without the generous contributions of so many Valley residents, we would not have had enough books to meet the tremendously high turnout we had on Saturday."

As a result of the success of Kid’s Day, Brieno said Inspire California will certainly be having two more literacy events again in July and December of 2019.

Russell said the library looks forward to the continued partnership.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

News Reporter

News reporter for The Sentinel

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