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Evergreen Park library hosts school literature festival

Evergreen Park Public Library and Evergreen Park Community High School are teaming up to host a literary festival for teens.

Tina Ward, media specialist at the high school, and Mary Black, junior librarian at the library, are planning a Young Adult Literary Festival at the library on March 16. But first, they need to find a way to hire writers who ignite a love of reading in young people.

They hope to attract keynote speakers that students have identified as favorites, such as Arshay Cooper, Kwame Alexander and Angeline Bouley. Other writers they hope to bring to Evergreen Park include Jason Reynolds, Ellen Hopkins, James Klice and Dominican American poet and author Elizabeth Acevedo.

Highlights of the festival include a keynote presentation where authors will pitch their books on stage, followed by smaller groups led by individual authors that give readers options in which they wish to participate. If funding allows, every young person will be able to take home a signed book of the author they listen to.

According to Black, the cost of bringing writers to such events averages between $3,500 and $5,000, in addition to travel expenses. So they set a fundraising goal of $20,000; This goal will also cover operational costs and book bags, totes or t-shirts for young participants.

“There is a decline in reading overall,” Black said. “We see kids on devices and it becomes harder for them to focus on reading for longer periods of time. And this is critical to understanding complex problems. “Scrolling creates problems in reading because you’re reading things on social media and you’re reading blurbs.”

The festival is aimed at children ages 12 to 18, but the entire community is welcome.

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“We want this to be a really big event,” Black said.

Ward and Black have already collaborated on many events, including author visits and school and library programs such as Food and Fiction, Summer Reading, Poetry Workshop, and Community Reading and Poetry Contest.

“I think what’s so interesting for us is that all of our students are Evergreen Park residents, so we have the opportunity to partner often because all of my students are patrons of them (the library),” Ward said. “When they enter our school, a library card appears on the back of their ID card.”

Sharing the library’s online databases with students helps encourage reading by making it easier to find and research materials or learn about community events, Ward said.

“Studies have shown that the more books people have in their homes, the more likely they are to read them,” Ward said. “…. As long as we continue to develop the love of reading.”

Organizers said they hope to share this love of reading beyond the borders of Evergreen Park through the festival, and that it won’t be limited to area residents. They also hope to attract sponsors from wider areas. Sponsorship forms are available at the library and high school, and organizers send out letters about the event and post details on social media. Donations, 9400 S. Troy Ave. It can be done at the Evergreen Park Public Library at or online at: evergreenparklibrary.org/events/ever-read.

Janice Neumann is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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