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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Children’s Book Festival to Benefit Local Schoolchildren

March 12, 2015 | By Rebecca Lauck Cleary

Area schoolchildren are ready for the 2015 Children’s Book Festival, held as part of the Oxford Conference for the Book later this month.

Sheila Turnage, author of “Three Times Lucky,” presents to the fifth-graders Monday, March 23. Adam Rubin, author of “Those Darn Squirrels,” presents to the first-graders Wednesday, March 25. Both events are at 9 a.m. in the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Square Books Jr. will host book signings on March 23 at 4 p.m. for Turnage and March 25 at 4 p.m. for Rubin.

The goal of the Children’s Book Festival is to give each child a book of his or her own, which they will read along with classmates and their teacher. Committees made up of local school librarians, teachers and representatives from the Lafayette County Literacy Council, which sponsors of the first grade; the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, which sponsors the fifth grade; and Square Books Jr., choose the book each year.

Turnage grew up on a farm in Eastern North Carolina and is a graduate of East Carolina University and the author of several children’s books, including a Newberry Honor winner and a New York Times bestseller. Rubin quit his day job in advertising to become a full-time author, after writing several children’s books that became New York Times bestsellers including “Dragons Love Tacos.”

The Lafayette County Literacy Council places a premium on working in partnership with others to be more effective and responsive, and the Children’s Books Festival is a great example of that.

“The Literacy Council’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our community through literacy and reading and the Oxford Conference for the Book’s Children’s Book Festival is an opportunity for us to help turn local first-graders into lifelong readers,” said Meridith Wulff, director of the LCLC. “In the first grade, many kids are still learning to read or just beginning to read on their own, so it’s the perfect time to really bring a book to life and show them that reading is fun.”

Junior Auxiliary members also serve as hosts for the visiting author and spend time in the schools bringing the books to life.

“The fifth-graders all read the book together in class and then discuss it, which brings about an array of comments and discussion topics among all the students,” said Brandy Newman, Lafayette Upper Elementary School librarian.

Connie Robinson, Oxford Elementary School librarian, said the Festival gets kids excited about reading by seeing the author at the Ford Center.

“Through this experience, students become connected with books and reading because it is now a text-to-self relationship instead of a text-to-text,” Robinson said. “In the classroom, students will participate in activities such as creating a story map, compare and contrasting it to other books, a bird drawing activity, and creating bird costumes.”

The 22nd annual Oxford Conference for the Book, presented by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Square Books, is dedicated to Mississippi writer Margaret Walker. All sessions are free and open to the public. For a full schedule of events, visit