For any kid who loves to read or be read to, the National Book Festival, hosted by the Library of Congress, is an opportunity to see the authors of old favorites in person or be introduced to some new and fabulous books. For kids who don’t love to read, the National Book Festival can be an opportunity for them to gain a better appreciation of what goes into writing and illustrating great books and can spark some interest.
The 2015 National Book Festival was held on one day at the D.C. Convention Center, although in past years it has been held over multiple days on the National Mall. For families, the festival is part story time, part book store browsing, part autograph-seeking, and part engaging in book-related activities. For many children, the highlight of the festival is hearing a favorite author read his or her book. Rooms are large, but for the reading of children’s books, children are invited to sit on the floor in front of the stage so that they can hear the book and pictures are pages are projected on large screens.
At this year’s festival there was a large children’s section with different rooms dedicated to children’s books, picture books, and teens. Most authors held a short question-and-answer period for children after reading their book. Book signings are held separately from readings at specified times.
In addition to book readings and signings, there is a very large section dedicated to literacy-related activities for children. At this year’s festival there were story-times held by festival sponsors (rather than authors themselves), “story starter” sheets with illustrations by a children’s author to provide a beginning for children to write their own books, a board for children to write about their favorite book, and a scavenger-hunt to find a book from every state. There is also a book store where books by authors appearing at the festival are sold.
Overall, my family had a nice time at the Festival. It was exciting to hear authors read their work and I liked that my children got to hear from authors directly about their experiences and the process of writing books. However, there was some disappointment when we were unable to get into readings because of long lines. The line to purchase books was also very long and we decided to skip buying books there for autographs so as to avoid the wait.
Things to know if you go
- Expect crowds and lines!
- Do research in advance to plan out which authors you would like to see and have sign books and plan out your schedule.
- If there are any “must-see” authors on your list plan on arriving at the room early to wait in line. Capacity may be reached for readings by very popular authors.
- Read books by authors you will see before the festival to help get kids excited. Many authors will read their most recent books at the festival so you can read older books to avoid repetition.
- If you would like your children to ask the authors questions at the festival, you may want to help them think of some in advance.
- Download the National Book Festival app before you go.
- Food vendors are available within the Convention Center and no outside food is allowed.
Enjoy the National Book Festival in years to come and have fun meeting favorite authors and discovering some new ones!
Photos by Jamie Davis Smith.