By JOHN Y. COLE
For a decade, reading promotion has been at the very core of the Library’s annual National Book Festival. Each year, the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress plays a pivotal role in the book festival by coordinating the more than 70 author and illustrator presentations, organizing and managing the popular Pavilion of the States and working with its reading promotion partners and festival sponsors in the Let’s Read America pavilions. The center also coordinated the participation of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Katherine Paterson and some local-area student winners of the Letters About Literature contest.
At last year’s book festival, the Center for the Book launched the “Exquisite Corpse” serialized episodic story project, accessible on its literacy promotion website Read.gov. This year, the Center for the Book moderated the event marking the culmination of the program in the Children’s Pavilion.
Pavilion of the States
The Pavilion of the States is where festivalgoers can learn about the Center for the Book’s reading- and literacy-promotion activities as well as the literary traditions and programs in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With help from more than 100 volunteers from the Junior League of Washington, representatives from throughout the nation distributed materials and answered questions about each state’s writers, libraries, book festivals, book awards and literacy programs.
A popular pavilion feature, especially among young readers and their families, was “Great Books and Great Places,” a colorful 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 “Great Reads About Great Places” highlights books for young people chosen by representatives from each state and the territories.
The Librarian of Congress and Rep. John A. Culberson of Texas made a special visit to the table where the latest edition of “The Congressional Club Cookbook” was being sold. The cookbooks offers recipes from around the world and includes inaugural ball portraits of presidents and first ladies, as well as photos of historic sites around Washington. Revenue generated from cookbook sales adds to contributions made by the Congressional Club to a variety of local charities.
The Center for the Book was joined in the Pavilion of the States by representatives from four of its reading- promotion partners: the American Library Association (a frequent project co-sponsor); the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a festival patron that sponsored the pavilion itself; the Junior League of Washington; and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which sponsored the participation of the nine state centers hosted by state humanities councils and also gave the Center for the Book a $10,000 reading-promotion grant.
Many authors delighted their fans by making scheduled visits to their state tables to sign autographs and be photographed with their fans. They were: M.T. Anderson (Delaware); Rae Armantrout (California); Ree Drummond (Oklahoma); Julia Glass (Massachusetts); Margaret Peterson Haddix (Ohio); Philip Hoose (Maine); Pat Mora (New Mexico and Texas); Karen Slaughter (Georgia); Anita Silvey (Massachusetts); Rebecca Stead (New York); and Natasha Trethewey (Mississippi).
Let’s Read America Pavilions
Reading-promotion projects sponsored by the festival’s corporate sponsors were presented in the two Let’s Read America pavilions.
AT&T invited attendees to join Dipper, the AT&T Cares star. The Library of Congress Credit Union (LCFCU) featured “Sammy the Saver” rabbit, who presented lessons in good family saving habits. The Penguin Group and the Pearson Foundation offered photo opportunities with “the Penguin” and several hands-on craft activities.
ReadAloud.org featured Hilda, the organization’s talking spokesgoat. Hilda greeted fans and spoke with authors David Baldacci, Brad Meltzer, Mem Fox, and Jennifer Liu Bryan about what makes reading aloud with family members so special.
In Scholastic’s “Read Every Day Corner,” love of books, creativity and family togetherness were celebrated. Activities were centered on the theme “Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.” This global literacy campaign underscores the importance of reading to better prepare children with strong literacy skills to survive and succeed in the 21st century.
In the second Let’s Read America pavilion, charter sponsor Target invited everyone to send “Mail from the Mall. Postmarked with a commemorative Target Bullseye dog stamp, the customized photo postcards could be sent by festivalgoers to anyone in the world. Families could relax and read in the Target reading lounge and learn about the company’s reading- promotion programs. These include the “Letters About Literature” competition, which Target sponsors jointly with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The program invites students in grades four through 12 to write a letter to an author, past or present, who has inspired them or altered their view of the world or themselves.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book and author coordinator for the National Book Festival.