Almost 100 youngsters from four schools in Prince William County, Va.—two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school—were thrilled to be part of the throngs of 130,000 book-lovers who crowded the National Mall on Sept. 26 for the National Book Festival.
The young people were sponsored at the festival by the Old Dominion Chapter, The Links, Incorporated (ODC Links). The Links, Incorporated is a service organization comprising African American women in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Bahamas who serve their communities and reach out to young people to help them achieve.
It was the third consecutive year that the ODC Links brought busloads of children from Prince William County, the chapter’s service area, to enjoy the book festival.
“For many, it was their first exposure to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.,” said Debra Murphy, an active member of The Links, Incorporated and director of the Library of Congress Office of Contracts & Grants Management. “My Links chapter is very excited,” she said. “We look forward each year to exposing Prince William County’s youth to authors they have read and enjoyed at the largest book festival in the country, and to the grandeur of the National Mall in their nation’s capital.”
The schools represented were West Gate Elementary School of Manassas, Va.; Old Bridge Elementary School, Goodwin Middle School and C.D. Hylton High School of Woodbridge, Va., The students screamed and waved to the crowd as their schools were announced from the stage by Mary Brigid Barrett, an author and the president and executive director of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA).
The group’s buses pulled up as the book festival officially opened. The first stop was the Children’s pavilion, where a group of children’s authors was preparing to launch the Library’s new literacy website, Read.gov, cosponsored by NCBLA. To make the launch memorable, the group of authors – including Jon Scieszka, Mary Brigid Barrett, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Megan McDonald, Kate DiCamillo and Steven Kellogg made public the first chapter in a serial story that will be rolled out exclusively on the website over the next year, in installments. The story is titled “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.” (See story on page 203.) Later the group fanned out to see more of the festival’s many offerings and had a picnic lunch on one of the National Mall’s tree-shaded side lawns.
Another major highlight for the students was the Pavilion of the States. Nearly all of the Prince William County students completed the orientation and tour for all 50 states and obtained stickers from each state to prove it.
“The excitement on those children’s faces based on their accomplishments for this task was just priceless,” said Willa Dumas, co-organizer of the ODC Links.
Attendance at the National Book Festival is one of several literacy projects sponsored by the ODC Links. For the last five years, the chapter has sponsored a project with Old Bridge Elementary and West Gate Elementary called “Student Treasures.”
“Student Treasures provides students in the third through fifth grades with the opportunity to write and illustrate original manuscripts using poetry or prose to convey their life experiences and interests,” said Sheila Garnett, chairperson for the Arts Facet of the ODC Links.
The chapter funds the binding and publication of the books and an end of year “Book Talk and Signing” reception where student authors can discuss their work.
Each participating school sent notes of thanks to the Links for sponsoring their attendance at the book festival.
“Our students were very excited to meet the faces behind the books,” read the note from West Gate Elementary. “We had a student who wrote her own book and was able to share it with Ms. Sharon Robinson and Mr. Kadir Nelson. They offered her scores of encouragement and signed her book! The smile on her face was one we’ll never forget.”
The students of Hylton High School said they were thrilled to attend and many told their school staff escort they want to return to next year’s National Book Festival.
Renee Chinn, the assistant principal at Goodwin Middle School, said her students had a busy day, hearing presentations by authors John Grisham, Rickey Minor and Jon Meacham; visiting the Pavilion of the States and getting autographs from such luminaries as Paula Deen.
“As you can see we had a full day! Our students really enjoyed this adventure.”