Tucson Festival of Books returns for 9th year

Festivalgoers browse the Penguin Book Truck’s selection at the Festival of Books on the UA Mall on Saturday, March 15, 2014. The Festival of Books will run on the UA Mall from Saturday to Sunday and offers a wide variety of interesting activities and events (Photo by: Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildcat)

The books are back in town.

The Tucson Festival of Books returns to the University of Arizona campus Saturday and Sunday for the ninth year.

Hannah Isaac, an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Festival of Books, says they are expecting 135,000 people to attend this year. The festival will have over 350 authors involved of all different genres, including Molly Yeh, Sam Sykes, Adam Rex, and Lisa See. The current U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera will be doing a poetry reading at this year’s festival.

There will be workshops and exhibitions as well, including Science City where kids can learn about science and do hands-on experiments.

“We’ve always had a really big audience, but as the festival continues to grow and we get different authors, bigger names, we definitely see a lot more traffic,” Isaac said. “We have a lot of people who come back every year and they look forward to it all year.”

All proceeds from the Festival of Books go toward supporting literacy programs in the Southwest, and it has donated more than $1.4 million since its conception in 2009.

Make Way for Books, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving early literacy in children, is a sponsor of the Festival of Books and has been involved with the festival and the Tent for Tots since the beginning.

Ally Baehr, director of community engagement, says the organization’s mission is “to give all children the change to read and succeed and to help parents be their child’s first best teacher.” It does this through providing free books and encouraging parents to read to and with their children.

Baehr emphasized the importance of early literacy in children and familiarizing them with books and reading before they go to kindergarten.

“We promote the use of books only with children birth to five,” Baehr said. “We don’t recommend any technology for that age group.”

And adult newspapers may be cutting staff and budgets, but an Arizona children’s newspaper is thriving.

Bear Essential News, a media sponsor of the Festival of Books, is a monthly newspaper written by kids, for kids. Their free program teaches children how to be journalists, including workshops about how to do interviews and how to write in a news style.

Children play at a stream table at the UA Department of Geosciences booth in Science City at last year’s Tucson Festival of Books. The stream table, along with many other hands-on activities, will be available during the festival in the six Science City neighborhoods (Photo by: Bailey Bellavance / The Daily Wildcat)program teaches children how to be journalists, including workshops about how to do interviews and how to write in a news style.program teaches children how to be journalists, including workshops about how to do interviews and how to write in a news style.

Nancy Holmes, a publisher of Bear Essential News, said the Young Reporters program gives kids a voice and encourages them to take an interest in what’s going on in the world around them.

“Bear Essential News and the Young Reporter program is more important now than ever,” Holmes said. “It teaches kids to get the facts, and we don’t shy away from tough topics.”

Each month, Bear Essential News distributes over 100,000 papers to schools and businesses across Tucson and Phoenix.

“It’s a great pleasure to partner with the Festival of Books,” Holmes said. “This even is a huge success and has done a great deal to support literacy programs here. It’s a real Tucson treasure.”


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Taylor Brestel is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at taylorbrestel@email.arizona.edu.

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  1. Just to clarify that Make Way for Books does not receive funding from the Tucson Festival of Books.

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