At Long-View, learners are encouraged to extend their learning beyond the boundaries of the school day—to see their learning as a constant process and embrace it as their own responsibility. This month, all of us in the Long-View community have a special opportunity to do just that, and it’s right down the street: the Texas Book Festival.
One of the largest festivals of its kind in the country, this annual celebration of books (free and open to the public) takes up several square blocks around the Capitol and features over 250 local and visiting authors of books for children, teens, and adults. Giant tents with author readings, live music, and even cooking demonstrations sprawl outdoors, while inside the warren-like rooms of the Capitol Complex you can attend innumerable smaller panels of authors discussing their books. If you’re new to Austin or have missed this marvel in the past, it’s more than worth taking up the weekend.
While it’s always a thrill to meet a beloved author and line up for their book-signing, and the sheer atmosphere of bustling, joyful bookishness is bound to make any young reader giddy with excitement, the festival can be an even more powerful learning opportunity with some targeted preparation. Together with your child, start by looking through the list of attending authors to search for familiar names. Those in Auburn Band, for example, may be excited to find that Jacqueline Woodson (author of the class read-aloud) is giving a talk about her newest novel, Harbor Me, and Sylvia Acevedo will be speaking about her memoir, Path to the Stars, an excerpt of which they used for a writing exercise. Learners may also be proud to support our very own Anna Lyon, who leads Indigo Band’s literacy block, who is moderating a panel on young-adult novels.
You can also “filter” the schedule to see all the children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult author events, for instance, and you will find numerous authors you may not have heard about whose books might easily pique your child’s interest. Actively take the opportunity to expose your child to diverse authors and books about characters from backgrounds different from their own; the brilliant literary tapestry of the festival is a fantastic resource for broadening your young reader’s awareness and appreciation of diversity.
In addition, if your child is interested in particular areas of history or science, filter by those genres or search for those or other keywords (for both Saturday and Sunday) on the schedule page; you may be surprised to discover that a former astronaut will be talking about the year he spent in space, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist will be exploring cosmology, a local judge will be delving into the history of civil rights in Texas, and a historian will be discussing the baseball team that helped the Allies win World War II.
Perhaps even more importantly, if an author your child loves or has studied in school is coming to the festival, engage your child in a discussion about the author’s writing in advance and encourage them to come up with a few highly creative, tailored, probing questions to ask the author about their work. There will always be a Q&A session at the end of an author’s reading, and it can be thrilling for a child to raise their hand and engage intellectually with an author whose work they have read and deeply thought about. What’s more, authors are used to being asked the same set of run-of-the-mill questions at readings, and rarely do these questions or answers offer real insight that a budding writer or passionate reader can learn from. Your child can change that.
Furthermore, there will always be tents and room with larger and smaller audiences; stop by and listen to the less popular authors, too, because often a smaller crowd means more chance to see the author as a person, talk to them afterwards, ask questions, and learn. And throughout the festival, whether at panels on history or mystery or graphic novels, encourage your child to draw connections to what they've learned in school.
So, if you consider the Texas Book Festival as a masterclass in how to be a writer, or a kaleidoscope of TED Talks happening at once, or a forum for the exploration of literature, then a fun literary weekend can become a pathway for deep learning and inspiration.