national book festival and gala: what I learned
The National Book Festival is in its 11th year, and this year for the first time ever, it was two days of festivities on the Mall in DC–more than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators were there.
It. Is. SototallyawesomeIcannotevenexplainit.
This year was even more incredible than my experience last year, and after lots of listening, meeting, and and chatting with superstar authors and illustrators at both the Gala on Friday and the Festival on Saturday, I came away having learned some really important lessons from masters in the literacy world. What better way to start this week than by sharing them with you?
So with huge thanks to my friends at PBS Kids for inviting me as their guest and with huge thanks to the many authors and illustrators who stopped to take a few minutes to chat with me and my great pal, Leticia, of Tech Savvy Mama, I have to share what I learned at the 2011 National Book Festival and Gala:
- Authors can be crazy-cool, real, and totally fun.
Leon Fleischer spoke about the up’s and down’s of his life and musical careers and played for the crowd at the Gala.
Tomie dePaola admitted that he just couldn’t draw a picture on the fly for an audience member because of problems with his hands but he joked with the audience about his age, and he even shared his favorite word when asked by a sweet little girl from the crowd.
Tomie dePaola getting real about his favorite word:
Eric Wight (graphic novelist who wrote “The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist” and more), Tom Angleberger (“The Strange Case of Origami Yoda”), Loren Long (author/ illustrator of “Of Thee I Sing” by President Barack Obama and “Otis and the Tornado”), Jarrett J. Krosoczka (“Punk Farm” and more), and Lisa Yee (“Warp Speed” and 2011 American Girl Kanani books) treated us like old pals when we hung out in the Library of Congress, chatting, joking, laughing, and hammin’ it up.
Leticia and I even gave Jarrett and his sweet wife a tutorial on QR codes (we’re such nerds but I love it).
The things you learn at the National Book Festival! Thanks, Daniel Kirk, for teaching me about ‘pongs’ (poems made into songs, obviously!).
- Inspiration comes in crazy ways.
Edmund Morris, Pulitzer-prize winning biographer who wrote the FDR trilogy and recently Colonel Roosevelt awed me with his story of inspiration–how a single photograph of President Roosevelt that Morris saw as a child, as he sat alone in a library in Kenya, stuck with him and eventually inspired him to write the FDR trilogy. How Morris’s life took different twists and turns but eventually he ended up doing exactly what he was meant to do–bringing to life a memorable photograph.
It was moving. It hit home. Inspiration comes even from unexpected places.
Jane O’Connor, of the fantabulous Fancy Nancy series, told the story of what inspired her to write about Fancy Nancy. And it’s one thing to read it, but it’s a totally different ballgame to hear it firsthand; Maddy talked about it for hours afterward.
Here’s Jane O’Connor, speaking French with the crowd and talking inspiration:
- It may seem crazy to some, but books won’t go out of style.
No matter the technology, books will not go out of style. I believe it, and so do many, many others.
The mantra was repeated not only through the Gala Authors’ Reception but also throughout the Festival itself. It’s cool to use a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad to read books (or so I hear–I don’t have one!), but nothing can replace the feeling of diving into a book, of holding one in your hands.
In the authors’ program at the Gala, Toni Morrison spoke about how she reads books on her iPad but that when she comes across a really, incredible book, a gem of a read, she can’t read it electronically. She has to hold it so she can highlight, underline, question, and make notes in the margins. The words are so powerful that they deserve to be in a book so that she can hold it in her hands.
And here’s what John Rocco, author and illustrator of “Blackout” who worked on DreamWork’s Shrek movie, had to say about the power of books and the importance of ‘unplugging’ as a family.
John Rocco, on unplugging:
Tens of thousands of people came together this weekend to celebrate literacy. Thousands of volunteers, thousands and thousands of hours of planning, and hundreds of authors, illustrators, and poets, came together for one reason–to celebrate books and reading.
Even in this electronic, plugged-in age, thousands and thousands of people charged the Mall this weekend to see and hear their favorite authors and illustrators, to talk to them and to really bring their favorite books to life.
After a million days of rain here, the sun shone. People were smiling. It was a dream.
Want a closer look at the Festival?
Here’s the slideshow of the National Book Festival event:
- The Library of Congress and the National Mall are crazy perfect venues for these events.
And they’re crazy perfect for an anytime visit as well.
Sure the tents won’t be on the Mall on any ole day, but the Library of Congress is one of my most favorite spots in DC. It’s magnificent. It’s regal. It’s calm, quiet, and enormous. It’s humbling. It’s beautiful.
It’s our history, and everyone should see it.
Here are some photos from the National Book Fair Gala event:
- People are really doing crazy awesome things to ensure that every child becomes a reader.
It’s the organizing of talented Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington. It’s the school librarian volunteering his S unday at the Festival. It’s the collaborative writing of many authors, including award-winning author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Katherine Paterson. It’s teachers and librarians and specialists and administrators doing what they can to support literacy and reading for every student.
It’s bloggers and writers sharing what they know and how they bring literacy into their homes and classrooms on sites around the web. It’s a mom of three in the suburbs, holding onto a dream of someday publishing her own book, writing at night when she should be sleeping. Everywhere, every day people are coming together in the name of literacy and reading. It’s awesome.
PBS Kids, with their incredible site rich with resources for children of all ages and their smart television programming is constant presence at tons of community events, including hosing the PBS Kids Pavilion at the National Book Festival. PBS Teachers offers incredible support and resources for educators at every level, and PBS Parents offers a plethora of articles, ideas, and ways that parents can support education.
Maddy, Owen, and Cora LOVE the ‘new’ Electric Company.
Scholastic Parents makes at-home learning accessible for every parent while Scholastic Teachers provides teachers with lesson ideas, the Book Wizard (which I regularly use), and more than I can even list here. I’m a secret fan of Scholastic Librarians because of the Author Videos. The Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life campaign for global literacy. The Scholastic Book Clubs, and all of the free resources for families demonstrate the importance of literacy, the importance of families reading together.
Target’s Reba Dominski spoke about the many programs that Target has created to support education, including school library makeovers, their partnership with First Book, and the numerous grants Target offers to support learning–field trip, arts, and early childhood reading grants. There was a steady stream of traffic in and out of Target’s Family Storytelling Stage and Book Tent, as it featured dozens of authors reading from their work, singing, and taking questions.
The Target Book Tent mirrored a comfy living room, with sofas, pillows, and cozy nooks for reading any of the books on their shelves. Very cool.
Sure, there are tons of people who are stepping up in the name of literacy, like The Washington Post, Wells Fargo, At & T, and more, but this past weekend, I spent time in these three, children-happy areas.
And the entire list of authors and illustrators who participated in this year’s National Book Festival can be found on the Library of Congress website, along with a list of sponsors and festival highlights.
It was a fantabulous event that I would most highly recommend every family attends at some point. This short post will hardly do it justice, but I wanted to quickly share what I learned before I forget, and this is only scratching the surface.
My most sincere apologies to anyone for inadvertently making a mistake here. Please do let me know if something can be corrected.
fyi: Many, many thanks to Maria from PBS Kids for extending the Gala invitation my way, as it is seriously one of my most favorite evenings of the year–an absolute dream. Thanks to the many authors and illustrators who stopped to chat with us those two days, and I do hope (cough, cough) that they may consider doing a little ‘just 1 book’ post for us down the road, and thanks to my pal Leticia for sharing her photos of the two of us with Toni Morrison, Daniel Kirk, and Loren Long.