I attended the 18th annual Rochester Children’s Book Festival at Monroe Community College on Saturday Nov. 15. There were about 50 children’s authors and illustrators there–– mostly from the Greater Rochester area––including Fancy Nancy series author Jane O’Connor. About 4,000 people showed up this year, which, according to festival coordinator and children’s author Elizabeth Falk, is usually how many people attend the festival, Falk is also a wonderful and loving professor in Geneseo’s own Ella Shear Cline School of Education who teaches CURR 313: Classroom Reading and Literature Programs and SPED 234: Instructional Strategies and Inquiry in Special Education. Falk has been involved in the festival since 2006 when her first book came out and started coordinating the festival in 2008 with children’s author Kathleen Blasi.
When I found out about the opportunity to volunteer at the festival, I was so excited. I love working with kids and was able to meet authors that I have known since I was a child. I walked in to the room at MCC and was overwhelmed with joy. There were dozens of tables with even more books on each table. The ballroom was so colorful and inviting––a perfect place for any kid and their enthusiastic parents.
I was lucky enough to be assigned to volunteer in the “Busy Bookworm” room, which was a room for crafts, crafts and more crafts. I chose to be at the table with Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow, making monkeys out of Popsicle sticks and a bed out of different colored card-stock. The looks on the kids’ faces were priceless––the joy that they felt from just making a few crafts was truly incredible. I must have made at least 300 monkeys with 75 kids.
Other students from Geneseo’s School of Education in the “Busy Bookworm” room were assigned to do crafts such as face painting, making pirate hats, glitter balloons and other book-related arts. Some volunteers were assigned to be an author’s personal assistant.
“Being able to give kids the opportunity to meet and chat with their favorite authors is just magical,” Falk said. “When their faces light up after meeting an author who has written a book that they love, it makes all the hard work pay off.”
Falk does not get any financial compensation for being the coordinator of the festival; she does it because she is passionate about making children happy. She donates her time for a whole year to put the festival together. In fact, none of the workers or volunteers are paid and Monroe Community College actually donates their space every year for the event. The place is filled with people who truly love and are inspired by children, which makes it all the more special.
Every year, Falk and Blasi say, “This is our last year doing this,” but every year, they decide that the happiness of the kids is more important than anything else they would be doing with their time.
In my eyes, there are very few things more important than teaching kids to be excited about reading, writing and self-expression. I will definitely be volunteering again next year and anyone who has the same passion for children should definitely consider it as well.