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Children, Authors Celebrate Reading at First River Read Literature Festival
Park University hosted Park Hill School District fourth and fifth graders at the River Read Children’s Literature Festival on March 11, 2004.
Southeast Elementary School librarian Susan Schank, who coordinated the Park Hill School District’s involvement in the festival, contacted Park University when she found out that the university that normally hosted the festival shared the same week of spring break as Park Hill. Rather than miss a year, Susan and her fellow Park Hill librarians set about creating a local literature festival... and River Read was born! Dr. Kathy Lofflin, Director of the Watson Literacy Center, agreed to organize Park University’s involvement with the event, while Barnes and Nobles book store was instrumental in securing all of the books by the 19 regional authors attending. These books were available for purchase during the event and students had the opportunity to have them signed by the authors. They also are available for checkout in a special collection in the Watson Literacy Center resource area.
Thankfully, March 11 turned out to be a beautiful spring day. There were 681 students with 190 adults (teachers and parents) attending. Park University had 40 volunteers on hand to assist our visitors (students and authors) around the campus. Volunteers were recruited from Dr. Lofflin’s work-study staff, her ED 381 classes, Student National Education Association, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alpha Chi honor society and University Advancement. These volunteers were key to the success of River Read.
David Nieves, one of the authors, not only met with students in three sessions but also provided lunch time entertainment for students and parents. He displayed a menagerie of reptiles for his audience. The Cat in the Hat made an appearance during lunch encouraging students to continue to read!
What is a literature festival? A literature festival is a place where 4th and 5th graders get the opportunity to listen to and meet their favorite local Missouri authors. In order for these students to participate, they are required meet certain guidelines set by their school. For example, students had to complete 20 book reports from award winning books and then a culminating project to get the opportunity to attend River Read.
One of the main priorities Dr. Lofflin had for the festival is that children have fun and get excited about reading. The next priority, was that the authors have fun and want to return.
Overall, River Read was a huge success and there were many positive comments from attendees:
"I didn't even know all this was here." (from a visiting parent who lives in the area)
"Your volunteers are awesome. We felt so welcome. Whenever we were looking for something we just turned around and there was someone there to help." (from several Park Hill teachers)
"People were coming in the store all weekend to buy books (by the festival authors) and were just raving about how wonderful Park was." (from a salesperson at the Barnes and Noble on Barry Road)
Due to the success, Park University and the Watson Literacy Center have been requested to hold River Read again in 2005. Dr. Lofflin has agreed to coordinate the festival again but hopes to open up future festivals to students in other districts. She is already brainstorming with the help of the Watson Literacy Center advisory board how to make this possible. Now that the Center has “learned the ropes” of presenting such an event, more opportunities may be made available for children and teachers.