Childhood literacy will take center stage this year at the annual Children’s Trust Family Expo.
Kids who attend the Saturday event will get a free book, Scholastic will have more than 20,000 more books for sale, and Miami-Dade 3-year-olds can sign up for a club to get a free book every month.
Clifford the Big Red Dog will be among the characters greeting the kids.
The expo draws about 20,000 people a year to the Miami-Dade County Fair and Expo Center to learn about community resources and vendors who serve families. Entertainers, face painters and lots of free stuff are part of the draw. The first 1,000 school-age children to arrive will get backpacks; younger kids will get water bottles.
This year, Miami-Dade Public Schools’ Back to School Boulevard will have 20 departments offering information for parents on all kinds of issues, from after-school programs to nutrition and how to avoid injuries.
The event’s emphasis on reading this year is part of the Children’s Trust Read to Learn campaign, which aims to get more kids reading at grade level by third grade. (Third-graders who don’t pass the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test are in danger of being held back).
“The Read to Learn campaign came about with the fact that 30 percent of students were not reading at grade level. Those students have a higher rate of dropping out of high school, not going to college or not having a decent chance to earn a living wage,” said Emily Cardenas, senior communications manager of the Children’s Trust.
Some of the event’s stage performances will also focus on literature and vocabulary building.
“We want to make sure that the influence is felt at the family expo,” Cardenas said.
Miami-Dade parents will also be able to sign up their 3-year-old children for the Children’s Trust free Read to Learn Book Club. Each member will get a free book and parent guide every month by mail — in English or Spanish.
In other areas of the expo, nutrition is the theme. Baptist Health South Florida’s “Five-a-Day” section is about encouraging kids to eat healthy. Parents can get recipe cards with tips on how to incorporate healthy habits.
At the Expo Greenhouse, kids can plant herbs and learn how to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, even in an urban environment. Families will be able to take home fresh produce.
There will be plenty of physical activities, too. In the sports zone, kids can throw balls with the Miami Marlins and the Miami Dolphins; see martial arts demonstrations; climb rock walls; and jump in bounce houses.
The expo runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the fairgrounds, Coral Way and Southwest 112th Avenue. Parking and admission are free.