CCPS students meet award-winning authors

Published 4:19 pm Monday, October 26, 2015

Bacon District, Eureka and Phenix elementary school fourth and fifth-grade students got to attend Longwood University’s second annual Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF) on Friday and Saturday. The event promotes reading in Southside Virginia — bringing more children, organizers said, than than any other book festival in the country.

A variety of children’s authors and illustrators were in town for the event, which drew about 3,000 people, including Jacqueline Woodson, Kwame Alexander, Cece Bell, Sophie Blackall, Brenda Chapman, Sarah Sullivan, Gigi Amateau, Teri Kanefield and Todd Parr.

“Juanita Giles first approached me late in the spring of 2013 about the Virginia Children’s Book Festival. She was in search of a host, and when she came to me, I immediately said ‘yes,’” said Suzy Szasz Palmer, the dean of Greenwood Library.

“I knew Longwood was the perfect place to host the event: it fits so well with our current mission to educate citizen leaders and our history, which continues today, that focuses on teacher education,” she said.

The events kicked off on Thursday afternoon with a special fundraiser for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival at Fishin’ Pig called Macaroni and Cheese with Todd Parr.

As a children’s author and illustrator, Parr was excited to be in town for the second Children’s Book Festival.

“I love it,” Parr said. “I believe in what they’re doing.”

The special event at The Fishin’ Pig paid homage to Parr’s favorite food, macaroni and cheese and celebrated his book “It’s okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub.”

Guests were able to eat a serving of macaroni and cheese while frolicking in a bathtub complete with floating bubbles.

Parr said his work is about helping others and the passion you see has a tendency to stay with you.

Throughout the weekend, Chop Suey Books of Richmond, served as the official bookstore for the children’s book festival. “We’re a small indie bookstore,” said Ward Tefft, owner. “It’s a warm-welcoming festival.”

The VCBF at Longwood featured a variety of informative sessions for individuals of all ages.  “As a librarian, the idea of having a book festival on campus seemed magical, and I’ve long been an advocate of bringing K-12 students onto college campuses to expand their horizons,” said Palmer.

“In just two years, I think the VCBF has helped strengthened the university’s connections to the community and has benefited so many young people by connecting them directly with authors thereby sharing the love of reading and writing,” she said.

“We at the VCBF are blown away by the success of this year’s festival. We feel we are really accomplishing our mission, which is to make literacy a value for every child in Southside in particular, and Virginia at large,” said Juanita Giles the festival’s executive director.

“Thanks to all the participating teachers, librarians, principals and superintendents, the Virginia Children’s Book Festival hosted more children this year than any other book festival in the country. We are ecstatic and can’t wait for 2016,” she said.