Kids earned Kindness Coins at the Kids Literacy Farmer’s Market outside Noel Wien Library this week and then eagerly spent those coins on healthy produce at a market stall.
“This is a brilliant idea,” noted one parent.
That parent was one of more than 600 people who showed up with children to wander among 42 community booths that promoted reading and provided fun literacy-based activities for elementary school children and their families.
The event was held outdoors, and was intended to be a “farewell to Covid celebration,” according to borough library director Melissa Harter.
“Knowing what we know now, I am very happy it was planned as an outdoor event,” she said. “The hope is that it played some part in sparking, for our youngest residents, an interest in reading and the curiosity to continue learning.”
Every time a kid completed an activity, he or she received a Kindness Coin. Those coins were spent on fresh produce — bags of blueberries and raspberries, banana, oranges, apples, tomatoes, snap peas and more.
The 3,000 Kindness Coins sold out within the first hour and were then regularly replenished when kids spent them at the market, spearheaded by Americorps VISTA Fairbanks volunteers. More coins will be added for next year.
The Farmer’s Market completely sold out and many booths also ran out of materials, due to the huge public attendance.
Still, there were hundreds of smiles and excited new readers who left with free books, thanks to Star of Gold Readers, and healthy snacks in their I Love Books bags.
The event was sponsored by Fairbanks North Star Borough libraries and Stars of Gold Readers, a community-wide collaborative organization that promotes all students reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Local organizations enthusiastically joined the effort.
“Such a wonderful array of local organizations bravely participated in this first-time event and added a richness and depth to the experience for the young attendees,” Harter said. “The idea became a reality only by the generosity and commitment demonstrated by so many working together and proves that by doing so our community can be a tremendous force for good,” she added.
A vaccination clinic was held in tandem with the event and reported a steady stream of both school vaccinations and Covid vaccinations for anyone 12 years of age and older.
“We will do this again next year, using what we learned this time to make it perfect,” Harter said.
That’s good news for kids. One child was overheard to say, “This was way more fun than I thought it would be.”
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.