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 nomination and 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 further its own mission of stimulating public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. For example, each year several of the authors who take part in the festival are invited to participate in the center’s Books & Beyond author series, which is held at the Library of Congress throughout the year.
In addition, 35 state center coordinators, six state center advisory board members and several of the center’s national reading promotion partners participated in the 2007 festival.
In partnership with Target (a Distinguished Benefactor of the book festival), the center sponsors the “Letters About Literature” reading and 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.
Authors, Illustrators and Poets
The 2007 National Book Festival featured 70 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-signings, which bring readers together with their favorite authors, are the heart of the National Book Festival experience.
More than 400 presentations by authors, illustrators and poets videotaped at the first seven National Book Festivals may be seen and heard on the Library’s Web site.
Taken as a whole, these presentations provide a snapshot of the remarkable talent and diversity of contemporary writers and writing at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Pavilion of the States
Visitors of all ages flocked to the Pavilion of the States to learn about the reading and literacy projects and the literary traditions of all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Especially popular with young readers was “Discover Great Places Through Reading,” a free map of the United States that could be presented at each table for an appropriate state sticker or stamp. On the back of the map, a list of “52 Great Reads About Great Places” highlighted books for young people chosen by representatives from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa.
The Center for the Book was joined in the pavilion by representatives from four of its national reading promotion partners: the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a festival patron that sponsored the pavilion and most of the state participants; the National Endowment for the Humanities, which sponsored the participation of the nine state centers hosted by state humanities councils; the American Library Association, a frequent project co-sponsor; and the Junior League of Washington, which provided approximately 400 volunteers for the 2007 festival, including more than 40 in the Pavilion of the States.
Two other Center for the Book reading promotion partners were part of the festival: the National Endowment for the Arts, a festival patron that sponsored the Poetry pavilion, and the National Basketball Association/Women’s National Basketball Association’s “Read to Achieve” program, which was featured in the Children’s Pavilion.
Seven festival authors and illustrators made scheduled visits to their state tables to sign autographs and to greet and be photographed with their friends and fans. They were Diane Ackerman (New York), M.T. Anderson (Massachusetts), Carmen Agra Deedy (Georgia), Mercer Mayer (Connecticut), Sena Jeter Naslund (Alabama), Rosemary Wells (Kentucky) and David Wiesner (New Jersey).
Two of the authors whose books were chosen by individual states for the “52 Great Reads About Great Places” on the back of the U.S. map also visited their state tables: Susan Fletcher (Oregon) and Robert Tinnell (West Virginia).
The Pavilion of the States also hosted the national winners of the “Letters About Literature” program, who visited their respective state tables (Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Dakota, Rhode Island and South Carolina).
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 having their photos taken with Bullseye, the Target dog, in Target’s Big Red Chair. Other contributors whose reading programs were featured in the Let’s Read America pavilions included AARP, AT&T, the Library of Congress Federal Credit Union, PBS, Penguin Group (USA), Scholastic, Inc., and U.S. Airways. Activities included individual and group reading demonstrations and appearances by beloved cartoon and storybook characters. Once 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 and author coordinator for the National Book Festival.