Banned books up for discussion

Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Here in Virginia and across the country, there’s been a question of who needs to read specific books. What age is too young to read some stories? Who gets to decide that answer? Those topics will be the subject of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF) keynote address and kickoff event on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, 1,597 books were challenged in the United States in 2021, up from 273 targeted in 2020. In Virginia, books such as “Gender Queer” and “A Court of Mist and Fury” captured public attention by being challenged in the past year.

Award-winning children’s book author Phil Bildner will offer the keynote address at the VCBF kickoff event, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12, in Soza Ballroom in Upchurch University Center at Longwood University. A reception will begin at 6 p.m.

Bildner, whose own books have been challenged, wrote about the importance of reading in the process of building understanding.

“I always talk about empathy,” Bildner said. “We talk about characters who are different from us. Look different. Believe different things. Dress differently. Because when we read, we develop a better understanding of the human experience.”

Now in its ninth year, the VCBF brings thousands of K-12 students from across the commonwealth to Farmville to interact with top children’s and young adult authors and illustrators. This year’s artists include Phil Bildner, Chris Grabenstein, Victoria Kann, Jay Cooper, Corinna Luyken, Gene Yang and many others.

VCBF Executive Director Juanita Giles noted that schools are eager to return to an in-person gathering after two years of virtual events.

“Virtual events during the pandemic were fun and extended our reach around the world,” Giles said. “But nothing beats being together with young people who love to read and these great authors on Longwood’s beautiful campus.”

The reception and keynote address are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Brent Roberts at (434) 395-2083 or robertsbs2@longwood.edu.