About 4,000 local students attended the first-ever Children’s Book Festival sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama on Thursday.
Students heard stories, met authors, received a free book, and learned about their community.
“We are doing our best to spark a love for reading with our kids,” said Rosa Monteiro, director of academic success with the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama.
Representatives of the Boys and Girls Clubs researched book festivals and learned that there were none in Alabama or along the Gulf Coast.
“We thought it was needed,” Monteiro said, adding that the ultimate goal of the festival is to get students to improve their reading proficiency.
All students attending the festival were able to pick out a free book on their reading level. Books ranged from colorful storybooks to chapter books.
Kathryn McCrory, a fifth-grader at E.R. Dickson Elementary, was excited to receive the book “Worst Night Ever” by Dave Barry.
“I read a lot of books,” Kathryn said. “When I read, it takes me to another world.”
Characters from Dr. Suess, Alabama Public Television and Disney walked around the Grounds during the festival to meet the students. Community agencies such as the Mobile Public Library, the Mobile Symphony, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, the Mobile Police Department, local universities and more set up booths for the children to visit.
Volunteers read books from storytelling stages set up throughout the venue. And on a main stage, groups sang, danced and cheered on reading.
Lucy the screech owl was there from the Environmental Studies Center to greet students.
Students from Mobile and Baldwin county public schools, local private schools and home schools were invited to attend.
“It is going wonderfully,” Montiero said. “We have a packed house.”