For Maricela Leon-Barrera, celebrating children is essential to the culture of a community.
“If you think about it, that’s where we all start,” said Leon-Barrera, who is the early learning coordinator for community programs and partnerships at the San Francisco Public Library.
On Sunday, April 28, the San Francisco Public Library, as well as other community agencies — including many from the Mission — are inviting the community to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros at Parque Niños Unidos on 23rd and Folsom St. from 12 to 4 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public.
Families can expect to see the park adorned with colorful papel picado banners representative of Mexican folk art, while enjoying an exciting line-up of entertainment.
“The mastermind behind [Big Top Bubbles] is Hernan Cortez and they do this wonderful presentation of really engaging with the kids and filling the street with bubbles,” she said. “But they also get the kids to be a part of it: they get the kids to also grab wands and play with the bubbles.”
Cherry Hoops, a hula hoop performer, will not only entertain the kids, but teach them as well.
“Everybody involved has a heart for youth and for children,” said Leon-Barrera. “That was really important for us as we thought about what we wanted.”
The event will be closed with Maria Luna, a Mexican folkloric dancer.
While Día de los Niños, or Children’s Day, is predominantly known as a Mexican holiday, San Francisco’s diverse cultures will be well-represented.
“Even if [families] are not of Mexican descent, there’s something about Día that calls to them,” said Leon-Barrera. “In the Mission, there’s people from everywhere — that’s the Latin American diaspora.”
Sunday’s event is also a celebration of literature as each community organization has a creative literacy-based activity planned to empower students and their families.
English language arts and literacy continue to be a struggle facing students in the Mission District, as the public schools have yet to meet or exceed at least 50 percent of the state standards, according to the 2018 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress results. The state average is 49.8 percent.
George R. Moscone Elementary was reported to be the closest to the state’s average with 44.5 percent, followed by Marshall Elementary (38.33 percent) and Everett Middle (36.94 percent).
“The idea behind this is always celebrating children and book joy,” said Leon-Barrera. “We want families to know literature is fun. La lectura en familia es algo importante.”
As a bicultural and bilingual librarian, and as a former teacher with roots to the Mission, Leon-Barrera hopes that this event will empower her community. “It’s like a manda, right?” she said. “If we’re poised in a position where we’re able to talk to people and empower them, why not?”
The event will also offer books in Korean, Tagalog and Chinese, she said, because they want all of San Francisco to feel ownership of the day.
“It’s something that will resonate with everybody because the importance of children and the importance of literacy resonates with every culture,” Leon-Barrera said. “It’s universal.”