The Book Festival has always strived to reach a large number of students. In a city with a 25% illiteracy rate, turning youth into readers is essential for San Antonio’s future. This year, Festival staff focused on expanding these outreach efforts, which resulted in the highest number of students ever impacted by the Book Festival. Read on to learn about the Festival’s various programs for reaching younger readers and how we grew those programs in 2017.
Author Visits to Schools
A record number of authors visited students as part of the Book Festival’s community outreach efforts. Raul the Third , Kendare Blake, René Colato Lainez, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, and Diane Gonzales Bertrand all visited schools and even a children’s hospital during Book Festival weekend, presenting to more than 550 students. Nikki Loftin and Casey Lyall also visited schools before and after the Book festival, respectively.
Raúl the Third (Lowriders to the Center of the Earth), who received the American Library Association’s Pura Belpré Illustrator Award earlier this year, visited 5th and 6th graders at KIPP Camino in San Antonio’s Westside.
Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns) visited O’Connor High School and spoke to a creative writing class and book club members. She told librarian Sheryl Stoeck she had never had so many kids asking so many questions specific to her books.
René Colato Laínez (Mamá the Alien) visited Spicewood Park Elementary School in Southwest ISD and gave four presentations to students in pre-k through 5th grade.
Guadalupe García McCall (Shame the Stars) visited Fox Tech High School and presented to 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th graders. Library Media Specialist Laura Sisson said Guadalupe’s presentation had an immense impact on students.
“[Students] walked away with a sense of pride in their heritage and inspired to share their own personal stories,” Sisson said. “We had one student who has a difficult time in the classroom express her desire to share her life with others so that they can understand what it is like to live with autism. She spoke up in the session, something she rarely does in class. Another has a very challenging family life and wanted to stay and ask more questions about how to use writing as a tool for healing.”
Diane Gonzales Bertrand (The Story Circle) visited child patients at The Children’s Hospital. She had to suit up to read to one particularly sick child and the experience was eye opening for her. “It was a profound experience reading in a paper suit, wearing a mask, and trying to turn [book] pages with gloves,” Bertrand said.
Nikki Loftin (The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy) visited Cambridge and Woodridge Elementary Schools in February.
We also partnered with Barnes & Noble to have Casey Lyall (Howard Wallace, P.I.) visit nearly 200 4th and 5th graders at James Madison Elementary School at the end of April.
About author visits: An author’s visit to a school can be tailored to that school’s preferences. For example, students can be assembled in a large auditorium for one presentation. Or the author can do multiple presentations to different classrooms and spend most of the school day at the school. If you are interested in having an author visit your school, please contact Sherry Layman, Managing Director. If you are interested in donating to our author visits program, which pays for authors’ speaking fees and books for children, please click HERE.
Our annual Fiction Contest provides a wonderful opportunity for young writers and storytellers in grades 7-12 across Bexar County to showcase their creativity. This year’s theme was “Building Bridges.” Winners received CASH PRIZES and had their stories showcased at a special ceremony during the Book Festival. The Texas Cavaliers awarded $3,100 to Fiction Contest winners and their schools this year. Since we started the contest in 2014, the Cavaliers have awarded more than $12,000 to winners and Bexar County schools.
Organized Group Visits to the Book Festival
Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations such as SAReads, Girls, Inc., Boys and Girls Club, and others, more than 600 kids from underserved areas participate in this special program of the Festival. The group is responsible for getting to the kids to the Festival, then the Festival provides an author’s book and a Festival t-shirt. They are able to take part in activities, hear author presentations, and have the chance to be a student introducer.
This year we hosted organized groups from SAReads, Girls, Inc., Read & Lead, UTSA, Good Samaritan, Taft High School, Jefferson High School, Burbank High School, Madison Elementary School, and more for a record 600+ students brought to the Festival by an organized group. Thanks to Culligan of San Antonio, we were able to provide books to the students.
If you are interested and plan to organize a group of students or kids to attend the Book Festival, please contact Sherry Layman, Managing Director.
Barrio Writers Workshop
This year was our first year partnering with Barrio Writers to offer a free creative writing workshop for teens ages 13-18. Sixteen teens participated in the one-hour workshop led by BW Program Director Leticia Urieta. We offered VIA day passes for any teen who needed assistance getting to the Book Festival.
Attendees reported a positive experience and enjoyed the Socratic format that allowed everyone to give an opinion. They also loved having a space and activity that was exclusive to teenagers.
We are proud of our educational outreach program. As we continually strive to make improvements, there is always much more work to be done and many more kids to reach. We could use your help and suggestions as we give special attention to this component of the Book Festival by increasing our partnerships with community organizations and fundraising for additional author visits to schools. If you are interested in being involved in these efforts, please contact Managing Director Sherry Layman.