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Chamber welcomes book festival

Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF) founder Juanita Giles was the featured speaker at The Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Sept. 8 at The Woodland Inc.

Giles spoke about making reading and literature more accessible to children across Virginia, especially southside, through the VCBF.

The festival will be held from Oct. 16-18 at Longwood University and this will be the sixth anniversary of the festival. Giles stressed how vitally important literacy is and that having books in the home is critically important to early readers. Giles stated that she wants to stand in the gap and make VCBF attainable for any child, no matter their financial situation. VCBF is a “field trip based” festival that is 100 percent free. Giles said children are able to go with their school free of charge.

The VCBF team is active all year long to ensure that the community is reading. Giles and team hold book drives and book distribution, and according to the VCBF website, they have distributed 200,000 free books.

At the luncheon Giles stated how important it is to have books in the home as a child, “because having books in the home is 200 percent more significant than a father’s education.” Giles also stressed the importance of how reading affects life skills. A recent project she’s working on with Advanced Auto Parts encourages students to explore interests in car mechanics and is paired with the book “Lowriders in Space” by Cathy Camper.

Each year Longwood’s campus welcomes about 7,500 students and volunteers to enjoy the Virginia Children’s Book Festival.

VCBF also works with the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts as every year Monty Montgomery, artist and former Longwood student, leads a live mural painting with the students and the painting is then displayed in Farmville.

Giles stated that in southside Virginia “one in five adults is functionally illiterate,” and she is doing everything in her power to change that statistic.

The VCBF is also offers sensory-sensitive activities. They work with Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Services to offer sensory-sensitive activities Friday afternoon of the festival.

This year’s VCBF will include a variety of new attractions including a new podcast called “VCBF Live: Kids’ Podcast” that will feature the different authors and activities that are happening at VCBF. Giles stressed the importance of “getting books in homes” to promote leisure reading and with the VCBF bookstore, children are able to buy the books that they’ve been learning about while at VCBF.

After Giles’ speech, Executive Director of the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce, Joy Stump welcomed 12 new members and spoke about upcoming events. The next Chamber luncheon will be held Oct. 14 at the Community Center at The Woodland Inc. at 11:45 a.m.