Book Festival Reconnects Children to Joy of Reading

By Leonard Lewis, IV

In a City known for its music and art festivals, the New Orleans Book Festival sought to set itself apart to stress the importance of kids’ reading at a young age. Major book industry publishers, including Scholastic, hosted activities for small children at the festival held at Big Lake at City Park on Nov. 11, 2017 and organized by First Lady of the City Cheryl Landrieu. Festival organizers turned reading into fun with games like hide-and-book seek, where local children ran in search for books planted around the festival. Once they found them, they were able to keep their new literacy treasures.

“I think it’s great to get books in as many hands as possible and I think it’s great that reading is made fun for kids and parents in a festival environment,” said Courtney Kearney, the President of Friends of the New Orleans Public Library.

One of the biggest outcomes that New Orleans First Lady Cheryl Landrieu told the crowd was that she wanted to see was for families to come out and have free fun. Residents said they felt that there are not enough family orientated events in the City, particularly when it comes to major festivals.

For young children growing up with mobile devices, several authors and illustrators avoided using technology. Other authors gave away paper or hardback books. Volunteers at the book festival said they felt they achieved this year’s mission, to see children between the ages of four and 10 walk around open space with books in their hands instead of devices.

The book festival not only sought to reinforce the importance of reading, it was also a kickoff event for New Orleans Tricentennial Celebrations. The Tricentennial Celebrations across the City highlight the 300 years of unique history of New Orleans. Not only did the festival have book vendors for kids, big retailers like Barnes and Nobles participated, and a NOLA 300 stage, featured a live performance by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. The festival closed out with a fireworks show.

During the festival, several authors shared why they started writing books. “Writing for me was not that big of a challenge, I try to put things that I have gone through or that I like for example,” said actress Quvenzhané Wallis, the teen author of “A Night Out with Mama.”

“I try to put personalities of my friends and cousins to make the process much easier for me,” said Wallis, who was one of the youngest authors at the festival. The local star attracted a number of kids and their parents, who gravitated towards her, inspired by her journey to success and how her experience publishing children’s books.

“I think the New Orleans Book Festival is important because books save lives, idle minds are the devils playground,” said local author, S.L. Bartholomew, who goes by Stylist B. “Books saved my life, growing up in a rough neighborhood in New Orleans, reading kept me out of trouble Bartholomew said, who is the author of “JR’s First Trip to New York!” In writing her children’s book, Bartholomew said she wanted to show in the book, different modes of transportation and landmarks in different cities that she could not experience as a child. The New Orleans Book Festival was for just one-day, but organizers said most of the books can be found in the New Orleans Public Libraries around the City.

“New Orleans having events like this, seeing authors of all walks of life, can be a way to inspire them at a young age,” Bartholomew said.

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