Festival seeks to expand reach

Published 2:42 pm Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF) is looking for donations to help provide books for the community.

Under the leadership of Juanita Giles, VCBF has been distributing about 3,000 books each year at holiday parades in the area.

This year, VCBF paired up with the Piedmont Regional Juvenile Detention Center to help it build a library.

“We also donate books for every child in the Juvenile Detention Center every other month. And, we’ve gone from one book per child to two books per child every other month, and they get to keep those themselves,” said Giles. “We have been asked if we can provide books for every child upon their leaving the detention center, and we don’t have the store of books to do that at this point.”

VCBF has been approached by several organizations, such as Madeline’s House, Head Start, STEPS and FACES about donating books.

“We would love to be able to put a book in every bag of food that FACES distributes every week,” Giles said. “It is very ambitious because they give away a lot of food but that is our ultimate goal, to be able to meet the needs of these organizations in our immediate area.”  VCBF accepts donations throughout the year of gently-used children and young adult books. Volunteers sort through and make sure they are in good shape, before distributing the books out at parades, at the juvenile detention center and soon to a variety of other organizations.

Giles said they use all of the books, but that the need is quickly outweighing the supply. Often times, VCBF ends up purchasing books to distribute.

VCBF has a tight budget and they also have to raise money for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, which takes place each year in October.

According to Giles, often times they’re lucky enough to receive boxes of books from authors and publishers, but typically it’s only about 50 books in a box and those get used very quickly.

“If there are people who can donate books to us in this area, we really need them. Although we anticipate we’re going to have to have drives in Richmond and in Northern Virginia because there are simply more books there than there are here,” Giles said.

“Instilling a love of reading and a love of books at a very young age can make up for so many challenges that a child may face whether they live in poverty, in an urban area or a rural area, and also it’s never too late to have a child learn to love reading.”

Giles emphasized that VCBF would like to keep expanding its reach and distribute books to as many children in the area as it can.

“I’ve met several of the children who say that the books that we gave them are their favorite books and they carry them with them everywhere. They’re all very excited about it and we just really want to fill that need for these kids,” Giles said.

Those interested in donating books to the VCBF can drop off gently-used children and young adult books off at the Longwood Center for Visual Arts, The Fishin’ Pig or with Nicole Perkins in Longwood University’s Alumni Relations Office.

There will be a VCBF representative at each First Friday event, which takes place on the first Friday of each month at Riverside Park at 5:30 p.m.