JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – This festival will take area youngsters on a grand reading adventure.
The 13th annual Children’s Book Festival will be held from 10 am to 4 pm April 2 and 3 at Bottle Works, 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
The two-day festival, presented by The Learning Lamp and 1st Summit Bank, is geared toward children from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
The annual event connects top-selling, nationally acclaimed authors and illustrators with area children. The festival’s goal is to provide a quality, interactive literacy experience.
Each child who attends will receive a free, age-appropriate book from First Book, a national reading bank.
Kerri Belardi, book festival organizer and director of communications for The Learning Lamp, said organizers are looking forward to welcoming back people for in-person activities after COVID-19 concerns canceled the festival the past two years.
“We have taken extra strides to make this the biggest and best festival that we’ve ever had,” she said.
“I think that shows in the caliber of authors and illustrators who we have coming this year.”
Belardi said the festival is an opportunity for children to establish a love of books and reading.
“This is a great way for them to be able to come to the festival and meet these award-winning authors and illustrators, and they can see themselves in these people because we were extremely focused on cultural diversity in this festival,” she said.
“We want children and families to realize the importance of reading and the arts.”
The festival was made possible through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and its regional partner the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
One of the headlining authors will be Eric Litwin, a New York Times No. 1 best-selling author and musician who is best known for the original “Pete the Cat” series, as well as “The Nuts” and “Groovy Joe.”
His books have sold more than 13 million copies and have won 26 literary awards.
Litwin merges literacy and music to help early learners through “The Learning Groove,” a music program he co-created that empowers children to reach their musical potential and helps them develop their language and reading foundations.
He will give a presentation at 2 pm April 2, followed by a book-signing at 2:45 pm
At 1 pm April 3, Litwin will present a writing workshop. At 2 pm, he will have an author’s presentation, again followed by a book-signing at 2:45 pm
Don Tate, an award-winning author and illustrator and founding host of The Brown Bookshelf, a blog dedicated to books for young Black readers, will also be in attendance.
He is a member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign created to address the lack of nonmajority narratives in children’s literature.
Tate models for all children, but especially children of color, the adventures of reading, writing, illustrating and storytelling.
His books include “Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barne,” “Swish! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters,” “Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions” and “Roto and Roy: Helicopter Heroes.”
Tate will have an author’s presentation at 10:30 am April 2, followed by a book-signing at 11:15 am
At 12:45 pm, he will offer a writing and illustration workshop.
At 12:15 pm April 3, he will give a presentation, followed by a book-signing at 1 pm
Luke Flowers, an illustrator of more than 60 children’s books, including “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” by Fred Rogers, will be on hand.
He most notably authored and illustrated the “Moby Shinobi” series with Scholastic, selling more than 1 million copies since the first book was published five years ago, and Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth: ABC Storybook.”
At 11:30 am April 2, Flowers will present a writing and illustration workshop. At 12:15 pm, he will give an author’s presentation, followed by a book-signing at 1 pm
He will give a presentation at 10:30 am April 3, followed by a book-signing at 11:15 am
Wes Tank, a popular multimedia performance artist, will have heads bobbing as he raps zany rhymes of children’s literature over hip-hop beats that youngsters and parents should love through StoryRaps on children’s streaming app Kidoodle.TV and YouTube.
Tank will lead a rapping storyteller workshop at 10:45 am, followed by a rhyming and rapping workshop at 2:15 pm April 2 and 3.
To add to the creativity of the festival, Joe Wos, an internationally renowned cartoonist from Pittsburgh who started drawing mazes at the age of 7, will lead cartoonist and storytelling workshops at 1:30 pm April 2 and 3.
“I think this is going to be a weekend of excitement, not only for the storytelling part of things, but for books and the arts in general,” Belardi said.
Throughout the weekend, there will be local and regional author tables set up, where attendees will be able to meet authors and purchase their books.
There will be themed arts and crafts activities, including an art installation project with children’s handprints that will be displayed at The Learning Lamp; an array of community-based vendors; a new-and-used book comes out; and food trucks.
Returning is the bookmark contest, which will feature hand-drawn creations made from crayons, markers or paint from pupils in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
Festivalgoers will be able to vote for their favorites, and winners in each age bracket will receive a basket full of age-appropriate books.
Belardi said she expects to have more than 200 bookmarks on display.
“When kids are invested into the whole process of having something in the festival, they’re excited to come and show their family what they’ve made,” she said.
Belardi said that the festival typically attracts around 3,500 people throughout the two-day event.
“Our goal is for children to get excited about reading and books, and it’s a great way for families to pick books together while encouraging their kids to read, as well as reading to them,” she said.
Admission to the festival is free.
Masks are recommended.
For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit www.thelearninglamp.org and click on the “For Families” tab.
The festival’s Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/CBFJohnstown.