ONE of the largest events of its kind in the nation, the Savannah Children’s Book Festival is one of the most popular of Savannah’s fall events.
It’s also extremely important to the folks who organize it: Live Oak Public Libraries.
“It’s our focal point, our biggest event of the year,” says Karen Franklin, Development Coordinator of LOPL.
“It has two goals—it’s a celebration of the joy of reading, and it also highlights the joy of encouraging young readers,” she says. “They grow up to be adult readers, and every study shows the earlier you learn to read the better you do in school.”
With average attendance of more than 30,000 people each year, Franklin says, “We have the distinction of being one of the largest one-day book festivals in the country.”
While unlike many other local fall events, the Children’s Book Festival didn’t have to reschedule due to Hurricane Matthew, its location in Forsyth Park was briefly a reason for concern.
“We’ve been on some walks to make sure the debris has been removed so people can get around. The landscape’s changed a little bit but everything still looks amazing,” Franklin says.
“It still doesn’t get any better than the picturesque nature of Forsyth Park and the magic of Savannah.”
Highlights this year include a visit by Jane O’Connor, author of the Fancy Nancy book series. Other standouts are Keith Hemstreet (“Travels with Gannon and Wyatt”), Ame Dyckman (“Boy + Bot”), and Young Adult author Varian Johnson.
Franklin says it’s more important now than ever to keep real, physical books in the hands of kids.
“There seems to be a lot of research discouraging children from spending too much screen time. It’s still very important for young kids to read actual books, to have that tactile experience. And even younger children like to be read to. Growing a vocabulary before age of three is vital,” she says.
While Live Oak Public Library has been coping with some unfortunate headlines this year involving various allegations of financial mismanagement, Franklin says that hasn’t deterred the library itself from planning and putting on the Children’s Book Festival, nor in staying up to speed with the latest development in information technology.
“Live Oak Public Library is still trying to meet everyone’s needs full circle. that includes audiobooks and downloadable material. We want to reach readers of every format. But it will always be important to put books in young hands.”
Speaking of technology, there is a Savannah Children’s Book Festival app on Apple and Android “so Festival goers can navigate all of the activities and Forsyth Park so they don’t miss out out on their favorite authors or activities,” Franklin says.
“Hot spots have been ordered to allow for digital surveys throughout the park on the day of the Festival. This was another challenge we have met from the requirements in our grant that we go greener and collect more thorough information in a format that is easy-to-manage and examine,” she adds.