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Authors Inspire Students During School Visits
September 28, 2023 – 33 schools across Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools were graced with visits from acclaimed authors last Friday ahead of Bookmarks’ 18th Annual Festival of Books and Authors.
The Festival of Books and Authors is the largest book festival in the Carolinas, with last Saturday’s event at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts featuring over 50 authors showcasing their work. Before the festival, however, many of these authors took the time to sit down with children at schools and talk to them about their careers. Their insight into what it takes to get a book published, the importance of connecting with writing communities to hone your craft, and finding your inner voice were invaluable for aspiring writers in their audiences. However, these authors are also general examples of how dedication to one’s goals can pay off with enough time and passion.
“Most of us don’t get it on the first try,” said Make a Move, Sunny Park! Author Jessica Kim, who showed the Glam Girls Club at Jefferson Middle School a massive stack of rejection letters she got for her books before her writing career took off. “It takes a whole journey.”
Some authors even got to tell their full stories to the classes that they visited. Carmen Agra Deedy regaled students at Easton Elementary School with a bilingual spoken rendition of her children’s book Martina una Cucarachita muy Linda: Un Cuento Cubano, which recounts the story of a young cockroach woman deciding between potential suitors. The energy and enthusiasm Deedy brought to every line kept the students in rapt attention from start to finish.
“It makes the pages come alive for them,” Easton Assistant Principal Kristine Levenson said of the read-aloud performance. “It’s not just text. It becomes the story of a life.”
These authors didn’t just share their books with the students, but also sent them home with copies of their own. Having spent so much of their lives invested in literature, the authors have an acute understanding of how powerful access to books can be for a young person, and they wanted to make sure that the students they met had plenty of material to read and reread, both at school and at home with their families. Hopefully, that access will empower them to grow up and tell their own stories in their own unique ways.
“To live in a book-rich home is to be in a place where stories thrive,” Deedy said.
Notably, the books the authors shared were also chosen to reflect the students they spoke with. Whether it was a novel about a middle school girl learning to stand up for herself, a picture book about a Black boy’s first trip to the barbershop, or a snapshot of growing up in a Hispanic extended family, there was something that every student could see an aspect of their own life and heritage in. The greatest value of books is their power to make the reader feel connected to the author and to the world around them through a sense of shared experience, and it’s important that every student in WS/FCS has the opportunity to be part of that experience.
“It adds a lot of value,” said Jefferson Assistant Principal Sonja S. Hopkins. “When you can see yourself, you can be yourself.”
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