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Festival begins next week

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF) is set to kick off Oct. 19 in Farmville.

Juanita Giles

The festival will span to Oct. 21.

The Saturday events will be moving from the Longwood University campus to various locations in downtown Farmville, where best-selling authors and illustrators will be presenting and offering activities at Red Door 104 gallery and the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts.

A comic and costume extravaganza will also be held in the downtown plaza.

Festival founder and organizer Juanita Giles said the downtown events would relieve the university from hosting so many guests as it has been the main location of the festival since its inception in 2014.

“It really benefits Farmville’s businesses and offers people places to have lunch during the day,” Giles said. “It’s a way to invite people to our town and have them explore. That’s really exciting for us as well.”

The VCBF is set to feature close to 30 best-selling children’s book and graphic novel authors, illustrators and organizations.

Longwood University spokesman Matt McWilliams said attendance for the festival is expected to reach nearly 10,000 — a massive leap from the approximately 1,000 who attended the festival’s first year.

“Much of that is driven by school groups who come from all over the state to attend sessions with some of the nation’s most celebrated and popular authors and illustrators,” McWilliams said. “We all know that reading is an important skill to develop, and the VCBF annually inspires countless children from all backgrounds to pick up books and begin to explore the magic in their pages.”

Matt McWilliams

The festival is free and open to the public.

Other prominent features of the event include spaces for children with sensory issues and special needs.

Families can find respite from the bustle of the festival at the Longwood University’s Speech, Hearing and Learning Services (SHLS) building located at 315 W. Third St., where activities hosted by author Tom Angleberger and the music group Kid Pan Alley will be held for those with special needs. Registration is required for these events.

“Especially for children with sensory sensitivity, like autism or things like that, is that the festival can be very overwhelming with so many people … It’s very energetic and very busy,” Giles said.

“That can certainly place a burden on children with sensory sensitivity or other special needs, so we’ve partnered with (Longwood’s) Speech, Hearing and Learning Services this year to provide a more controlled environment especially suited for children with some of these issues, so they can participate in the festival without being overwhelmed.”

During the comic extravaganza at the plaza, SHLS will use the town’s caboose as a quiet place for children and families who may need time away from the festivities, but will still be close enough that kids won’t miss the excitement.

“It’ll just be a wonderful space for kids to take a break if they need one — if parents need one. It’ll be a nice, quiet space for them to take a little rest,” Giles said.

“I’m really excited about it,” Giles said about the resources for special-needs children, thanking SHLS for its support. “We want the festival to be for every child, and there’s all different ways to make that possible.” 

McWilliams said he and the university look forward to the event and the impact it has on children and families.

“Longwood is proud to have been a supporter of the VCBF from the beginning — its mission resonates deeply on our campus, and seeing thousands of smiling kids pour off buses each October to meet their literary heroes is a yearly reminder of the power of reading,” McWilliams said.

To learn more about the event, speakers and schedules, visit vachildrensbookfestival.com.