Minecraft to combine technology and reading at 2015 VCBF

Published 3:23 pm Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival is focused making reading fun for all kids by meeting them where they exist: in the digital arena. Imagine a story coming to life at the hands of a child. What kind of world would they build for Huck Finn, Charlotte’s Web or Bilbo Baggins if their imaginations were allowed to run wild? That’s exactly what the workshops on Saturday at the VCBF will promote.

Many parents are familiar with Minecraft, the computer program that challenges users to create their own universe using only rudimentary blocks. It’s not often that Minecraft and reading go hand-in-hand, but by pairing gameplay with books, drawing, writing and discussion, parents, teachers and librarians give children one more opportunity to engage with literature.

The brainchild of Dr. Mary Jo Stockton, a member of the VCBF advisory board and longtime volunteer, the Minecraft initiative is an important pairing of technology and reading. “For younger people, technology is at the center of their lives,” said Stockton.

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The program will kick off with a panel discussion at 9:30 a.m. featuring Dr. Karen Richardson, executive director of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education; Rebecca Thomas, librarian at Woodbrook Elementary in Albemarle County; Kim Harrison, former elementary teacher and now instructional technology specialist in Virginia Beach; and Sharon Darling, an instructional technology specialist for Virginia Beach City public schools.

“One of the great things about walking into a library is the freedom to pick out whichever book you want to read,” said Richardson. “The balance we’re seeking is giving them those options in the world they live in — one that is increasingly digital and seems really foreign to a lot of teachers and parents. We’re seeing a lot of parents start to sit up and think about how computers and video games can serve a dual purpose, education and entertainment.”

“This is exactly the kind of innovative program the Virginia Children’s Book Festival is becoming known for,” said Juanita Giles, director. “Children naturally have a diverse set of interests and skills, and not everyone can sit down and pick up a book. It’s up to adults to unlock the world of reading for them by reaching out and connecting with their interests. It’s just as important for parents to understand how to connect with reluctant readers, and this panel discussion will provide some real practical advice on how to do that.”

Studies show enormous benefits to children who read at grade level by third grade. Those students who fall behind their peers on that important benchmark have significantly lower high school graduation rates and career earnings. That’s why, for the VCBF, reaching even the most reluctant readers is so important.

Learn more about the Minecraft panel discussion and workshops at www.vachildrensbookfestival.com. All VCBF events are free and open to the public. Seats for the Minecraft workshops are limited, though, so please reserve yours as soon as possible.