Fun in any language

They got their faces painted. They kicked soccer balls. They got free books.

Tuesday’s Da de los Nios/ Da de los Libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) celebration offered something for just about every kid. The annual Latino holiday highlights literacy and culture for children of all backgrounds. The Marshalltown Public Library celebrated its twelfth year embracing the holiday by offering a variety of festivities for children.

Local indigenous group Nahui Tonanzin performed in one of the library’s meeting rooms while children selected from carts and tables full of books.

Ana Palacios, 39, of Marshalltown, brought her 4-year-old and 2-year-old daughters out to the event. She said exposing her children aspects of their native culture, such as Nahui Tonanzin’s music, helps them learn and appreciate it more, and the social aspect of such events is invaluable.

“I consider it very educational,” she said. “They can learn from other children.”

The event also offers much information to parents on how to help their children learn, she added.

Outdoors on the library lawn, members of the Marshalltown Community College soccer team, members of the Marshalltown Fire Department and a Marshalltown Police officer gave kids a chance to partake in more hands-on activities. Kids explored a police cruiser and fire engine and took turns attempting to score goals on miniature soccer nets for prizes.

Sharissa Stansberry, 17, said she volunteered to get hours for National Honor Society, but said being a part of the event is fun. Stansberry handed out temporary tattoos to children who scored a goal.

“It’s good for the community,” she said. “It’s keeping kids active, and you get to be a part of that they are not just sitting around. They are getting something from it, and they are having a good time.”

Da de los Nios/ Da de los Libros has been observed on April 30 since 1997.

Back inside the building, puppeteers entertained children with antics in Spanish and English, and volunteers scrawled cat whiskers and leopard spots on kids’ faces. Hundreds attended the two-hour celebration.

Tiffany Scheid, 26, said she has two children, ages 2 and 8 months, and she likes when the library holds evening events like Da de Los Nios/Da de los Libros that are open to the public. It makes it easier for working mothers such as her to involve their children in enriching activities that cater to a variety of interests.

“We love books,” she said.

Da de Los Nios/Da de los Libros was made possible by the Marshalltown Friends of the Library and several community agencies who showed support.