Lafayette County Literacy Council hosts annual Children’s Book Festival

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

For one week in March the Lafayette County Literacy Council brings the world of reading to area schools. The 2019 Children’s Book Festival is currently underway and has spent the past few days visiting area schools to entertain and educate classes about the joys of reading. 

The festival is an annual event in conjunction with the Conference for the Book that begins today on the Ole Miss campus. With a partnership with the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, Square Books, Jr. and First Regional Library hundreds of first and fifth graders are provided a free book and enjoy a skit and making crafts associated with the book. 

First grade classes received a copy of ‘After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)’ by Dan Santat and fifth grade classes were given a copy of ‘Out of My Mind’ by Sharon Draper, who is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Award. 

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Sponsors of the festival donated around 700 books, which has been the average number of books donated in recent years.  

Schools that were visited during the Festival included Bramlett Elementary School, Oxford Elementary School, Lafayette Elementary School, Lafayette Upper Elementary School, Oxford Intermediate School, Oxford University School, Regents School of Oxford and Magnolia Montessori School. Members from both the Literary Council and the Junior Auxiliary along with staff from First Regional Library and the Center for Study of Southern Culture performed skits and helped make crafts with the children. 

“We have a committee and we look through all these books and we try to find a book that we think is good for these children and is the right age,” Sarah McLellean said. “We have a skit that keeps their attention, gets them excited about the book and makes them realize that reading is fun. …What excites us is when we they start flipping through the pages and reading the book to each other.” 

McLellan is the executive director of the festival. 

Following the school visits the festival concludes on Friday with a program at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at Ole Miss. Sanat and Draper will be on hand to speak to the children about their books. First graders will have their program first with Sanat then the fifth graders will follow to listen to Draper.  

The day will conclude with both authors holding a book signing at Square Books, Jr. from 3 to 4 p.m.

Planning for this one week begins in August around the time school starts with the Literacy Council meeting with teachers and the librarians to sort through hundreds of books. From there a process of elimination begins until they have selected one book for each grade for the following year’s festival. In the weeks leading up to the festival, teachers will incorporate the book into their curriculums to get the kids prepared and excited for the week. 

“We hear from the librarians who are in the schools about how much the kids loved reading the books and from the parents about how they enjoyed it,” McLellan said. “We hope that this gets them reading, gets them asking their parents to take them to the library to get a library card and check out more books.”