By JOHN Y. COLE
Each year since the National Book Festival was established in 2001, the Center for the Book has developed, coordinated and overseen the participation of the festival's authors, illustrators and poets. The center also organizes and manages the popular Pavilion of the States and is an active participant in the Let's Read America pavilions.
In turn, the National Book Festival helps the center strengthen its own mission of stimulating public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. For example, many of the authors who participate in the festival may also be asked to participate in the center's Books & Beyond author series, which is held at the Library throughout the year. In addition, the state centers for the book and many of the center's national reading promotion partners are active festival participants. In partnership with Target (a Distinguished Benefactor of the book festival), the center sponsors the "Letters About Literature" writing promotion program for young people. The six national winners of this flagship program are invited to read their winning essays at the National Book Festival. (See story on page 284).
Authors, Illustrators and Poets
The 2006 National Book Festival featured 70 popular authors, illustrators and poets. Participants are nominated and supported by their publishers, with a high priority given to nationally known and award-winning nominees. Individual presentations and book signing are the heart of the National Book Festival experience, as these activities bring readers together with their favorite writers.
More than 350 author presentations videotaped at the first six National Book Festivals may be seen and heard on the Library's Web site at www.loc.gov/bookfest/. Taken as a whole, these presentations provide a snapshot of contemporary American writers and writing at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Pavilion of the States
Since its debut at the 2002 National Book Festival, the Pavilion of the States has been one of the festival's most popular sites. Here each state has an opportunity to share information about its reading and literacy promotion projects as well as its libraries and literary traditions. In 2006, representatives from all 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) shared their reading, library and literacy promotion programs with visitors, who began to gather well in advance of the festival's official opening.
The Center for the Book was joined in the pavilion by representatives from five of its national reading promotion partners: the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which supported most of the state participants; the National Endowment for the Humanities; First Book, sponsor of Book Relief, which provides books to individuals and libraries displaced by Hurricane Katrina; the American Library Association, a frequent project cosponsor; and the Junior League of Washington, which provided more than 300 volunteers for the 2006 festival, including 40 in the Pavilion of the States.
Two other Center reading promotion partners were part of the festival: the National Endowment for the Arts sponsored the Poetry pavilion, and the National Basketball Association/Women's National Basketball Association's "Read to Achieve" program was featured in the Children's pavilion.
A popular Pavilion of the States activity, especially among young readers, is a free, fold-out map of the states ("Discover Great Places Through Reading") that can be stamped with interesting state symbols by representatives at each state table. In the process of filling in the map, young readers and their families gathered information about library, reading and literacy promotion projects and forthcoming book festivals throughout the country.
Twelve festival authors and illustrators made scheduled visits to state tables to sign autographs and to greet and be photographed with fans. They were Douglas Brinkley (Louisiana), Andrew Clements (Massachusetts), Tony DiTerlizzi (Massachusetts), Sharon Draper (Ohio), John McCutcheon (Virginia.), Kadir Nelson (California), Elmer Kelton (Texas), Shelia Moses (Georgia and Missouri), Richard Peck (Illinois), Kathy Reichs (North Carolina), Sharon Robinson (Virgin Islands) and Terry Trueman (Washington). In addition, three writers assisted at state tables: Donna Ciocca (Connecticut), Ray Elliott (Illinois) and Lawson Fusao Inada, Oregon's State Poet Laureate.
The Pavilion of the States also hosted the national winners of the "Letters About Literature" contest, who visited their respective state tables (Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming). A group of 45 Russian librarians and archivists, who were at the festival as part of the Open World program, also paid a visit to the Pavilion of the States.
Let's Read America Pavilions
Reading promotion activities sponsored by the festival's corporate contributors were presented in the two Let's Read America pavilions. Festival-goers enjoyed taking photos of their families and friends in the Target Big Red Chair, the symbol for "Ready. Sit. Read!," a national reading program created by Target with the U.S. Department of Education. Other corporate contributors whose programs were featured in the Let's Read America pavilions were AT&T, AARP, PBS, the Penguin Group and Scholastic Inc. Activities included individual and group reading demonstrations and appearances by beloved cartoon and storybook characters. One again, children were encouraged to climb aboard Scholastic's Magic School Bus to meet Ms. Frizzle, the science teacher, and Dirtmeister, geologist extraordinaire.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and author coordinator for the National Book Festival.