This column was turned in a little late. Bless my editor, she has the patience of a saint, and I can’t thank her enough for bearing with me, because, oh my gosh, the 6th annual Virginia Children’s Book Festival is happening in just a month, and I’m just a TEENSY bit busy.
OK, I’m a lot busy. You see, the whole mission of the VCBF is to get kids excited about reading, and I don’t think that putting an author on a stool and having them read at a kid for 45 minutes is the best way to do that, so the whole VCBF team digs deep into our imaginations and tries to create programs that will really engage kids.
We have some special programs this year that I think really fit the bill, so let me share them with you.
Technology & Reading: “Lowriders in Space” with Raul the Third
We do a Technology & Reading program every year, and it’s incredibly popular. We choose a book by one of our presenters, then have kids explore the technology that is vital to the story. Kids have operated robots with Peter Brown after discussing his book “The Wild Robot,” experienced a virtual reality moon landing with Brian Floca while he presented his book “Moonshot,” and this year, kids get to put together engines, check tire pressure, replace windshield wipers and design their own lowrider with illustrator Raul the Third.
“Lowriders in Space” tells the story of three kids, Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack and Elirio Malaria, who love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. When the kids get enough money to open their own auto shop, they transform a junker into the best car in the universe. With help from local auto mechanics and classic car clubs, kids in this program will get to be IN the book, and what kid doesn’t love that?
Art Hospital: “The Book of Mistakes” with Corinna Luyken
The idea for this program was born from watching my own kids get frustrated with their artwork when it wasn’t perfect. Oh, the frustration! How many times do kids throw away art projects because they think they made a mistake?
Corinna Luyken’s “Book of Mistakes” is all about letting those mistakes inspire us instead of frustrating us. With help from local art teachers, the VCBF is gathering bags and bags of art projects that have been thrown away and challenging kids to take those mistakes and make something new. See that paint splatter? Why not turn it into a balloon? Or a dragon? Together with Corinna, kids in this program will learn nothing has to be perfect to be special, even us!
Books and Basketball: “Rookie of the Year” with Phil Bildner
Phil Bildner is NOT a professional athlete, but gosh if he doesn’t love basketball, and he thinks it has a lot to teach kids about friendship, hard work and facing challenges. Phil’s Rip and Red series is all about two friends and their struggles in school and on the court.
The VCBF knows sports may be the only topic some kids read about, so we’re taking it one step further. Together with the Longwood University Lancers, Phil will be leading kids in all sorts of basketball drills during his sessions. “Conditioning takes time,” as Rip and Red’s coach says. “Getting in shape is a process. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Readers aren’t built in a day, either, but this program is great conditioning!
Hip-Hop in Children’s Literature: “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” with Tiffany Jackson
The VCBF isn’t just for little kids, it’s for teenagers too, and our young adult programming is a dream come true. Our Hip-Hop in Children’s Literature program is a two-day project that focuses on a YA novel in which hip-hop plays a major role.
“Let Me Hear a Rhyme” tells the story of three teenagers who are determined to turn their slain friend into a major rap star by pretending he’s still alive. Teens in this program will work with Tiffany to dissect the themes of the book, then partner with Los Angeles hip-hop artist Malik 16 to write their own hip-hop pieces based on the book. The second day of the program has the kids working with New York cinematographer Mark Raker to plan, produce, perform and film a music video of their original pieces.
So I am a little busy, but I am also very excited. Planning and preparing the Virginia Children’s Book Festival — which will be held Oct. 16 to 18 at Longwood University in Farmville — takes the vast majority of my time, but its purpose is the same as that of this column: to help turn kids into readers. Thank you for bearing with me! I’ll try not to be late next time!
Juanita Giles, a Randolph-Macon Woman’s College graduate, is the executive director and co-founder of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival. Her column runs on the third Sunday of every month.