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Youth Literature Fest coming to U. of I., area schools, community Oct. 2-4

9/18/2008

Harrington
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Janice Harrington, professor of English at Illinois, is one of six festival participants from the local area. Her latest children's book is "The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County."
Jimenez
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Francisco Jimenez, a professor at Santa Clara University, emigrated with his family from Mexico and as a child worked in the California fields, which he captures in "The Circuit."
Lypsite
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Robert Lipsyte, an award-winning sportswriter for the New York Times, has also been honored for his young adult novels, including "The Contender," about a boy who sees boxing as a way out of his dire circumstances.

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor
217-333-2894; cdchambe@illinois.edu

slideshow
View a narrated slideshow showcasing featured books of the Youth Literature Festival.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Books, kids, and the love of reading will take center stage Oct. 2-4 in Champaign-Urbana, at the University of Illinois, and in 44 area schools – all as part of a first-ever Youth Literature Festival in East Central Illinois.

The festival, organized by the U. of I. College of Education, will begin with two days of school visits by 21 published authors and illustrators, most with national followings, such as Ashley Bryan, Chris Crutcher, Janice Harrington, Francisco Jimenez, M.E. Kerr and Robert Lipsyte.

The third day, a Saturday, will offer a full slate of free activities for all ages that celebrate books and the arts, held inside and outside at the U. of I. and at other Champaign-Urbana locations.

Those attending will be able to have books signed and listen to readings by festival guests, and enjoy storytelling, puppetry, films, a ventriloquist, exhibits, a poetry café for teenagers, and musical performances.

Most of the entertainment will be centered on the university’s South Quad, just east of Temple Hoyne Buell Hall, 611 E. Lorado Taft Drive. Among those performing will be the Bow-Dacious String Band; the Edison Middle School Jazz Band; the East Central Illinois Youth Orchestra; the U. of I. Black Chorus; storytellers Dan Keding (also a featured author), Kathe Brinkmann and Camille Born; ventriloquist and University High School student Hannah Leskosky; dancer Kate Kuper; drummer Rocky Maffit; and puppeteer Elizabeth Conley.

The full schedule for the day is posted online.

The authors and illustrators will appear, on a rotating schedule, in several tents on the South Quad, as well as in numerous campus buildings, at Champaign and Urbana libraries, and at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in downtown Champaign.

Mary Kalantzis, the dean of the College of Education, said the festival grew out of a college and university priority to build on relationships with local schools and the community, and they wanted an event that would engage both children and their families.

Kalantzis was familiar with the Children’s Literature Festival at Keene State College in New Hampshire, where she spent a year in the early 1990s. “I witnessed what the festival did every year for the community, and the way (they) celebrated writers and artists and reading, and the joys associated with those things,” she said.

Starting a festival in Champaign-Urbana seemed a natural, Kalantzis said, given the university’s scholarship and resources in the area of children’s literature and literacy, and the community’s investment in its libraries. (The university’s S-Collection, for example, is the second most comprehensive collection of children’s literature in the nation, second only to the Library of Congress, Kalantzis said.)

While the Keene, N.H., festival served as a model, organizers of the local festival also tried to incorporate aspects of other book and cultural festivals, said Violet Harris, a U. of I. education professor, expert on children’s literature and co-chair of the festival’s planning committee. (Nancy O’Brien, the head of the university’s Education and Social Science Library, has served as the other co-chair.)

The excitement and pleasure of books and reading is at the center of the festival, however, Harris said. “It’s absolutely wonderful to meet people who are enthusiastic about books, and to get a chance to talk to your favorite illustrator or your favorite author,” Harris said.

An author or illustrator’s enthusiasm for what they do can often be infectious, she said. A common theme among many is that “they don’t have an option of not doing something creatively, that it’s bubbling up out of them and they have to find some outlet,” she said.

The 44 schools getting author or illustrator visits on the Thursday or Friday of the festival include elementary, middle and high schools in Champaign, Fisher, Gibson City, Gifford, Gilman, Mahomet, Monticello, Oakwood, Paxton, Philo, Rantoul, St. Joseph, Thomasboro, Tolono and Urbana.

The authors and illustrators include Marc Aronson, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Ashley Bryan, Chris Crutcher, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Janice Harrington, Jennifer Holm, Paul Janeczko, Francisco Jimenez, M. E. Kerr, Dan Keding, Robert Lipsyte, Alice McGinty, W. Nikola-Lisa, Patricia Hruby Powell, Melodye Rosales, Robert San Souci, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Joyce Carol Thomas, Richard Van Camp and Janet Wong.

Six of the participants – Harrington, Holm, Keding, McGinty, Powell and Rosales – live in or near the Champaign-Urbana area.

More information about the Youth Literature Festival is available on the festival Web site, with more to be added as the festival approaches. The site includes, or will include, links to authors’ and illustrators’ Web sites, to bibliographies related to their work, and to schedules and maps for activities on Oct. 4.