September: A Month to Celebrate Reading
September brings two important celebrations of reading and literacy: International Literacy Day on September 8 and the National Book Festival, which is being celebrated online from September 17-26. This year, I am proud to have a special connection to both of these events!
International Literacy Day
Sponsored each year since 1967 by UNESCO, International Literacy Day celebrates the power of literacy to improve people’s lives worldwide. In the United States, the Library of Congress marks the event by presenting a series of literacy awards to organizations doing exemplary, innovative, and replicable work. This year’s top prize, the $150,000 David M. Rubenstein Prize, went to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Since its inception in 1995, the program has given away more than 165 million free books across the United States, Canada, and several other countries!
My connection: I have served on the Book Selection Committee for the Imagination Library—one of the most rewarding volunteer activities of my life. I’ve even gotten to meet Dolly on several occasions, and she is every bit as charming and wonderful in person as she is on screen. Congratulations to the hard-working staff of the Imagination Library for this amazing and well-deserved honor!
National Book Festival
Since 2001, the National Book Festival has celebrated the magic of books and reading. I covered the first-ever festival for Reading Today, the publication I edited at the time, taking notes and photos, interviewing authors and festival-goers, and generally having one of those “Wow, I’m getting paid to do this!?!” kind of days. I have attended the festival many other years as well, and it’s been exciting to watch the event grow and evolve over the years. I have many pleasant memories, such as these:
- standing in line with my son to get an autographed copy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Brothers in Arms,
- enjoying the spectacle of dozens of exhibits and thousands of eager readers spread across the National Mall or the Washington Convention Center, and
- listening to some of my favorite children’s book authors make presentations.
As I listened to those authors, I harbored a secret bucket list desire—I wished that I might someday speak at the National Book Festival. I knew it was unlikely. Most of my books are directed at the school library market, and my picture books are solid “mid-list” titles, not bestsellers or books that address earth-shaking topics.
This year my wish came true! My latest picture book, Raindrops to Rainbow (Penguin Workshop, 2021) was Delaware’s selection for the Great Reads from Great Places feature of this year’s National Book Festival. As a result, I was invited to participate on a panel of children’s picture book authors and illustrators, addressing the festival theme of Open a Book, Open the World. Access further information and the video of that panel discussion here.
September is indeed a month for reading, and I feel truly blessed to have special reasons to celebrate these two special events in 2021!