• 57°

Requesting support for the VCBF

At the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors regular meeting July 10, Juanita Giles gave an outstanding presentation in the course of asking the county to consider offering financial support for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF).

The festival is a phenomenon that has grown exponentially, and it benefits Prince Edward in a variety of important ways. In case any of the supervisors were not well-acquainted with the details of the festival, Giles offered a brief history. “I founded it five years ago,” she said. “This year will be our fifth anniversary, and we’ve grown tremendously. I created it as a response to the high rate of illiteracy in the Southside region. One in five adults in Southside is functionally illiterate, and we believe that literacy is culturally hereditary, so we really want to stand in the gap for these children.”

She noted that with Longwood’s support and blessing, the book festival began in 2014.

“The very first year, we had about 700 children from around the state come to Longwood for the book festival,” Giles said. “And by last year, which was our fourth year, we had 7,995 students come from around the state.” She broke down the relevant financial aspects of the multiday event.

“We present the book festival free to everyone,” she said. “We don’t want any cost to get in the way, and it costs us $15 per child to put on the book festival. Longwood has asked us this year to add a third field trip day to the book festival, which increases our budget by $30,000. But last year we had a waiting list — quite a long waiting list. Longwood can accommodate about 3,000 students a day on campus in addition to their students, so that’s our cap for each field trip day.”

Giles noted that the festival will go from nearly 8,000 students last year to more than 11,000 students from around Virginia this year.

Referring to a packet of information she provided the supervisors, she said, “In 2017, you’ll see that 23 percent of our attending children are from Prince Edward County. That’s 1,841 students. So, virtually every child in Prince Edward County Elementary and Middle School attended and Fuqua School, and this year we’re making a push for the teenagers to come as well. We have a lot of innovative programming.”

She also highlighted the fact that more than just the registered students come to town for the festival, and this has positive implications for the county from economic and tourism standpoints.

“There are teachers, there are parents, grandparents,” Giles said. “This past year, we had four schools from Washington, D.C., come and stay for three days. They came for every day of the book festival … We had schools come from North Carolina, from Pennsylvania, from Ohio, and they come and this is a destination for them now, and they come and they spend the night, and they do other things.”

In conclusion, she said, “I will say over the past four years, we have directly worked with more than 50,000 children from around the state, and many of those were from right here in Prince Edward County.”

Fighting illiteracy in the region is a noble and essential endeavor, and I think the county would be making a great investment in its own future if it offered financial support for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival.

TITUS MOHLER is the sports editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia, LLC. His email address is Titus.Mohler@FarmvilleHerald. com.