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In it for the kids

24 May

This post originally appeared in the Times Union Books Blog

It was evident from the moment our chartered bus from Albany to Rochester dropped us off on the Nazareth College campus that the Rochester Teen Book Festival is in it for the kids. There are signs around the venue’s various classrooms, opening ceremony in the gym, and in informational booklets that priority is given to teens– this means that if there are one hundred seats in a gym, you bet your butt that all one hundred will be given to teens first. Adults are last to be admitted and last to find a seat. And that is how it should be at a teen book festival- the adults (many of which are fellow middle grade and YA book lovers themselves) play second fiddle. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way because seeing the excited faces of the forty-three teens we brought on the cross-state adventure were all that should be needed.

A Saturday event dedicated to readers.

Bring in twenty authors where you have rolled out the red carpet is exactly what should get your blood pumping. As students scattered with their buddies across the campus to see their rock star authors in the flesh, I found myself listening to a graphic novelist who amazed us with some live illustrating, then a professor leading us in a workshop about graphic lettering, followed by the last two sessions with male YA authors that could captivate anyone with their oratory skills in addition to their amazing literary talent. Plus, I managed to squeeze in a visit to the food truck Macarollin’ for some lobster mac and cheese.  Phew!

So when we got back on the bus after my colleague, Kristen Majkut, counted, recounted, and triple-counted as the captain and all-around Wonder Woman of this trip, I settled in with a smile as we learned one of our students won a raffle drawing, another was given the sketches from her visit with the graphic novelist, and the students lovingly petted their new purchases… books. And you think reading is dead? These events serve as constant reminders about the nature of reading for teens. Plus, we have others to remind us too, since we were joined on the bus by YA author Eric Devine. Hours were spent talking about writing, other books, readers, and the target audience: teens.

So, if you’ve never been, mark it on your calendars for May 19, 2018. If you’re a librarian or teacher, bring your teens. If you’re a parent, bring your teen and their friends. If you’re in neither category, donate to the event which each of the twelve years it has been running is a runaway hit with its intended audience. Teens.

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