Virginia Children’s Book Festival will grant some holiday wishes

Published 12:26 am Thursday, November 17, 2022

FARMVILLE – The sun will set, the music will play and the lights will go on this Friday, as Farmville holds its annual tree lighting ceremony. But thanks to the Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF), children attending the event can also walk away with a present. The group plans to hand out books to local kids. 

VCBF Director Juanita Giles envisioned developing a love of books and reading within the community. A Farmville native, Giles realized there was an honest need for books within the area, and a love for literacy was lacking. 

“1 in 5 adults within our community are functionally illiterate in Southside.” Giles said. “Becoming a reader takes so much more than a classroom. Reading has always been a driving force in my life. I wanted to give that to kids here.”

How the Virginia Children’s Book Festival started

Giles took the initiative to begin the Virginia Children’s Book Festival in 2014 after 3 long years’ worth of planning. In its first year, the organization was able to offer books to approximately 700 children. Citing significant growth in years since, Giles states during the COVID-19 years of 2020-2021, a virtual event was held where 80,000 children were in attendance. Pleased with the outcome, and once the pandemic had passed, the organization began in-person events once again.

“We give away tens of thousands of books every year in Southside and across the state. (VCBF) has libraries established in juvenile detention facilities. We give books away at the parades,” notes Giles.

That includes walking along the Christmas parade routes in Farmville and Crewe, giving out books to children lined up to watch. On average, during one of these Christmas giveaways, more than 2,000 books change hands. 

And now, it’s almost time to give away some more. The Farmville Tree Lighting ceremony will take place on Friday, Nov. 18, beginning at 5:15 p.m. Parents are encouraged to bring their children to enjoy family festivities and receive their free books.

For the love of books

The need for books has never been greater. Giles anticipates thousands of children will be attending various events the organization has scheduled this season, receiving their new book. 

“We always need books,” Giles said, when asked if the group needed donations. “The second they come in; they go out. If a child says they want a book, we will make sure they get them.”

Additionally, volunteers are very much needed. 

“We can always use volunteers. We currently need volunteers to sort books at our building and help with various things at events,” Giles said. “What we want to do is give kids access to books and reading.” 

With a little help and a lot of heart, that’s exactly what the Farmville community will be able to do.

In addition to the upcoming tree lighting ceremony, the Virginia Children’s Book Festival will be hosting an in-person event on Saturday, Dec. 17, beginning at 10 a.m. Known as The Giving Snowman, children who show up will once again be given a new book. Giles states attendees must register for the event as there will be a capacity of 25 children at one time within the building.

Further details about the event and a signup form can be found on their Facebook page. The event is expected to reach capacity quickly, so early signups are encouraged.

How can I help?

How can I help? That question can be answered in a few ways. To sign up as a volunteer, contact VCBF Volunteer Coordinator Kate Irving at volunteer@vachildrensbookfestival.org. Additionally, you may reach out via the organization’s website at www. vachildrensbookfestival.org. For more information on The Giving Snowman and other upcoming events, visit the organization’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/vachildrensbookfestival.

Giles says book donations can be in new or gently used condition, and they are in need of pre-reader cardboard books through young adult.

If you have a bag’s worth of books, you can drop then off at the VCBF’s main office, located at 104 High Street in Farmville. For larger book donations, Giles requests you make an appointment via e-mail at info@vachildrensbookfestival.org, or call (434) 207-6705 so the organization can appropriately accommodate your donation based upon size.