Virginia Children’s Book Festival returns to in person

Published 5:52 pm Thursday, October 13, 2022

As the new school year gets underway, students can prepare for the return of a beloved field trip.

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF) is back in person and ready to spread the love of reading. From Wednesday, Oct. 12 through Friday, Oct. 14 at Longwood University, students from the surrounding area will come to experience the fun of reading.

This festival is designed to be “the best field trip anyone has ever gone on” which means it’s not like other book festivals. Many other festivals revolve around selling books and having an author come and do a reading. The VCBF provides an immersive and interactive experience to get students interested in reading.

“Book readings and signings aren’t going to grab kids’ attention,” said Juanita Giles, founder of VCBF. “We make it very interactive and immersive.”

The festival usually has numerous authors come to interact with the kids during the three days. One of the authors includes Pablo Cartaya, who will talk to middle school readers about his newest thriller “The Last Beekeeper.” Along with learning about the book, kids will hear from local beekeepers who will show what they use for beekeeping and the importance of honeybees in the ecosystem.

A HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL

The idea for this program started when Giles worked in the children’s section of the Charlotte County Library and went numerous days without signing a child in to check out a book. After some research, she learned that in Southside Virginia, 1 in 5 adults are functionally illiterate.

According to Giles, reading as a child is the best indicator of how successful a child will be despite money or upbringing. Knowing teachers work hard to do what they can for their students, Giles wanted to do something to fill that gap.

“Our three main focuses are accessibility, desire and diversity,” said Giles. “We want to make reading accessible to every child regardless of circumstance, inspire kids to want to read and for every child to see themselves in the books they read.”

The VCBF strives to cultivate a desire in every child regardless of circumstance or background. The nonprofit gives out 50,000 books a year through book baskets in various locations, in partnership with the Richmond-based nonprofit Worthdays giving children in foster care a new book on their birthday, holiday parades and other partnerships.

The VCBF has found great success throughout the years as the first official festival in 2014 had 700 participants and the last in-person festival in 2019 had 16,000 participants. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 festival was held virtually with 60,000 participants from around the world.

“I originally thought that these challenges were Southside, rural challenges but I’ve learned that’s not the case,” said Giles.

Giles expressed gratitude for Longwood University’s support in putting on the festival each October.

Even though this festival is designed as a field trip, the general public can also make reservations to attend during the three-day event. Visit vachildrensbookfestival.org to register or learn how to help bring the love of reading to children.