Inspiring teens to read

Local News

The Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival will be held this Saturday, May 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Shults Center on the Nazareth College Campus.

Dr Laura Jones, the Interim Festival Co-Director and Interim Board President, and Charles Benoit, a local author of such books as “Snow Job,” “Cold Calls,” “Fall From Grace,” and “You” discussed the festival and its benefits for teens Wednesday during News 8 at Noon.

“This festival is unique in that is was really designed with teens in mind, so it is a fun-filled day,” said Jones. “It kicks off with what we consider to be more of a pep rally in the gym, and there’s cheering crowds for the teens. And then it moves into what we would consider like workshops where they can meet with the authors. We also have other kinds of workshops throughout the day where they can learn a little bit about how they could become an author, or how they could engage in some graphic illustrations. And then of course the day ends with an autographing session.”

At the heart of the festival is how reading can benefit a young person, something Benoit knows first hand. “It did everything!” he said of reading’s impact on his life. “When I was in school that was my thing that was my connection to school. It was what kept me coming back everyday. I was a voracious reader at home, and my parents always got me to the library and I would take out as many books as I could carry, and they never hounded me on how many I had, or how late I stayed up reading. That has made off of the difference in my life. I’ve read more books as a kid probably than I have as an adult because I just threw myself into it. It gave me focus. It gave me inspiration. It gave me a desire to read more. And it got me to a point where I make a living writing.”

Having the opportunity to interact with teens at the festival is special for Benoit. “I’ll tell you that is the best part of being an author. You write the book, and it is lonely. Writing is a very lonely thing all by yourself. But when you get out there, you get to share the book with others, and you’re talking about writing with young readers and writers, that’s where it gets really exciting, because you know that, in the groups that I work with, students, they’re better writers than I am, sitting in front of me. In 10 or 15 years from now, their book is going to be on the shelf, and I will get to think that I had a tiny little role in playing, just simply sparking their interest. That is the amazing feeling when you’re a writer. You get to share that and inspire others.”

Jones has her own perspective on the benefits of the festival and reading. “I think because I’m in literacy education and I see two sides of it,” she said. “One is is that this festival, with everything that Charles says in his own experience, it allows these teens a public space where they are together with thousands of other teens who all love to read. You know sometimes that’s not the coolest thing anymore, but kids love reading. Middle school and high school kids still love to read. And this is a place where they can openly celebrate that with each other. And then the other side of it is that we’re learning through the feedback that we get through the teens that this is actually influencing the way they think about themselves as readers. It has an impact on their school reading too. They talk about going back into their schools, and they feel like, now I understand what my teacher ws saying. The writer is thinking about the character in this particular way, because that had that interaction with the actual author.”

For more information about this year’s Teen Book Fest, click here.

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