Picture this: A wave of teens flowing through a large gymnasium in search of the latest and great books. Composed teenagers intently listening to hour-long presentations in classrooms, some even taking notes. One massive venue full of wired, delighted teenagers all there for the same purpose: meeting the authors of their favorite books. This isn’t some dream that I hope will come true someday. I saw it with my own eyes!
Yesterday was the 11th annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival at Nazareth College. Teenagers from all over Upstate and Western New York chose to come to this college to meet a variety of authors. This is the first event I have ever been to where the teenagers were the ones who were catered to. After a keynote address where all of the authors were introduced and had to share a “truth” or “talent,” teens went to four different workshops, each with an author (or two). Many parents, librarians, and teachers were there to hear these talented authors share their writing strategies, but we were not the focus. If there were’t enough seats for all the teens, adults were asked to get up and stand against the walls. At the end of the day, all of the authors spent two hours signing their books and taking pictures.
My takeaway from this? The Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival needs to be cloned! I wish something like this was around when I was in high school, for maybe I would have read more often. This festival made it cool to love reading and writing, and I couldn’t help but think that my students desperately needed to see it. Too often my students refuse to acknowledge that they fell in love with a book because they are worried about how peers will judge them. Here teenagers could be themselves, learn from writers that inspire them, and know that they were among others just like them.
What an experience! I’m thrilled my co-teacher told me about this festival. We had a wonderful time and hope to take our students next year!