It was an afternoon that was aptly named, a real celebration of children’s books. On Saturday, November 17th, right after the weekly Saturday afternoon reading tutoring program, over 80 students, family members, volunteers, and staff gathered for the 6th annual FLOC Children’s Book Festival. We were there to celebrate reading and literacy, to meet some special guests, and to pick out books to take home. Not a week goes by at FLOC that we’re not talking about reading and literacy, but on this day in particular, the halls of our Columbia Road offices were absolutely buzzing with excitement about books.
Our master of ceremonies for the afternoon was WJLA-TV’s Cynné Simpson, a local television anchor and literacy advocate. She talked with us about her own love of reading, the people who inspired her career in the news, and about her path to becoming an anchor. Cynné then introduced Laura Murray, northern Virginia resident and author of The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, a story that details a gingerbread man’s quest to reconnect with the students who left him behind during recess.
Laura read her book out loud to us, with lots of audience participation, then talked with our students about her family (including her two daughters and her dogs!) her journey to become an author (she was a teacher first!) how to write a story (always ask “what would happen if…”) and how kids can be storytellers and authors, too (they can, really!). The conversation included cameo appearances by Albert Einstein, the Lincoln Memorial, alien dogs, and hats that looked like gingerbread men. Laura invited several specially selected students to participate in a quiz show about the book and the presentation, and our students were brilliant: the game ended in a tie, with both teams getting every single question right.
To wrap up our time together, Cynné moderated a question and answer session between FLOC students and the two special guests. Students asked several insightful questions, including (for Cynné) “How do you get the inside scoop?” and (for Laura) “How do you know what you’re going to write?”
After the presentation finished, we divided into groups for even more festive book activities. Parents talked with FLOC staff and each other to explore how literacy develops, how to encourage literacy in the home, and how to advocate for better resources in schools. They were provided with a list of resources related to child and adult literacy, a listing of local libraries, and information on how to sign themselves and their students up for library cards. Kids decorated their own gingerbread men with all kinds of colorful art supplies, then came up with personalities and stories to tell about these cookie people. Author Laura Murray stuck around to talk more with Book Festival guests and sign copies of The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School while everyone enjoyed food from Gepetto Catering.
To cap off our celebration of children’s literature, festival-goers got to select books to keep for their own personal libraries (provided by Books for America, First Book, and many generous individual donors—thanks to all!) Every student and parent in attendance was invited to select up to twenty books to take home.
As another successful Book Festival concluded, parents and students headed home with bags full of books (plus paper gingerbread men with glued-on googly eyes, and half-eaten sandwiches and cookies, and lists of literacy tips and resources), minds full of stories, and imaginations full of possibilities. Many thanks to the partners, donors, volunteers, and participants who made this event a success, and extra special thanks to special guests Cynné Simpson and Laura Murray. We hope to see everyone at next year’s Book Festival!
(Elizabeth Metz is the Recruitment and Outreach Manager at FLOC).
Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen.