Shrewsbury Childrens Bookfest 2013 is coming

Now that 2013 is well under way, the team at Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest is getting ready for the forthcoming School’s Week programme and the May Festival.  It is an exciting time of year as events and authors come into place to deliver another year of vivid and memorable literary events for children in Shropshire.  As January slides by, the reason we do what we do is at the forefront of all our work.

Since the first May Festival in 1999, Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest has established a fine reputation for excellence amongst authors, publishers and keen supporters and is now firmly established as one of the most highly regarded children’s literary festivals in the UK.

Bookfest has always been an independent, not-for profit organisation, run  by volunteers who collectively put in hundreds of hours’ work throughout the year. We obtained charitable status in 2007 and in 2009 we were awarded a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Excellence, the highest honour that can be given to a voluntary organisation and the equivalent of an MBE.

Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest May Festival is still a long way, however, from being the kind of mammoth literary event which festivals like Hay-on-Wye have become – which is where much of its charm lies.

Our patron Michael Morpurgo says he loves coming to Shrewsbury “because it’s a real children’s festival, focusing on children and their families. It’s still small and friendly enough to have that personal touch.”

Jacqueline Wilson, Bookfest’s President has said: “Children’s authors go all over the world speaking at book festivals. But I can honestly say that I have had the most fun at Shrewsbury and I know all my fellow authors agree with me.”

As members of the Organising Committee, we witness year after year how inspired and enthused children are by the experience of coming to a Bookfest event – and just why the top children’s writers are so hugely popular with their audiences. They have a wonderful and instinctive gift for understanding how children think, how to weave together stories and characters that resonate with them and how to capture and inspire their imaginations.

The chance to meet a favourite writer and listen to them speak about books and characters that feel like ‘old friends’ is a very special experience for a child. And it can be equally exciting to discover a completely new author, who opens up vast and unexplored new imaginary worlds.

As an Organising Committee, we want to give those sorts of experiences to as many children as possible. So in the last few years we have expanded Bookfest activities to include an Authors in Schools Week, when we can offer schools in and around Shrewsbury the chance of having an author, illustrator or storyteller come and spend a whole morning or afternoon with their pupils. In March this year 6 authors will visit 2,320 children in 12 schools in and around Shrewsbury. We’ve also included a free drop-in public event in the Square in Shrewsbury as part of the May Festival – so that as many children and families as possible can take part in the festival.

Publicised research repeatedly confirms the fact that children who read, on the whole do better academically and may also have higher levels of emotional intelligence. Yet as many teachers and parents know only too well, becoming a keen reader is something that is “caught”, not “taught”. As Bookfest has witnessed time and again, the experience of meeting an author can be the spark that brings books to life for children and inspires them to start reading for pleasure.

So, as we get nearer to working with hundreds of children for School’s Week in March and welcoming another team of fabulous authors, excitement continues to build for the launch of the May Festival programme – all will be revealed on Monday 4th March.

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Michael Michael

Severn Magazine and Love Shrewsbury Editor.

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