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North Texas Teen Book Festival Promotes Lifelong Reading

Photo by Camila Gonzalez

Irving—The Irving Public Library hosted the eighth annual North Texas Teen Book Festival at the Irving Convention Center, March 4-5

The free event presented over 40 authors from across the country, featured author discussion panels, and book signings.

Mandy Aguilar, grants and outreach librarian for the Irving Public Library, said the event was created because of the popularity of small author events held at the library. She said similar book festivals had been hosted around the country, but there were none in DFW.

“It’s different from a lot of festivals, because it’s mostly run by librarians and educators,” Aguilar said. “We’re on the front lines every day, seeing kids who are really getting a lot out of the books they read. Whether that’s education, whether that’s broadening their minds to new experiences or whether it’s just for pleasure, we understand the impact reading books can have on our young people.”

The event hosted two keynote presentations, one for middle grade readers and one for young adult (YA) readers. The middle grade keynote was a conversation between authors Max Brallier and Stuart Gibbs. This discussion was exciting for 12-year-old Rishi Kumbhani, because those are two of his favorite authors.

“I like the ‘Fun Jungle’ series [by] Stuart Gibbs,” Rishi said. “I like how he writes the descriptions.

“Max Brallier wrote ‘The Last Kids on Earth,’ where there’s only a few kids and they have to survive a zombie apocalypse.”

Rishi said reading can improve a person’s vocabulary, and he likes being able to visit new worlds through books.

The YA panel featured author V. E. Schwab. Elena Welsh, 20, visited the festival because Schwab is one of their favorite authors. They attended the festival with Anthony Garcia, 21.

“I think it makes such a huge impact for middle schoolers or high schoolers to meet one of their favorite authors or an author they really admire,” Garcia said. “I never got to meet one of my favorite authors when I was a kid. Now, I wish I did because that would have been so cool.”

They attended the History Meets Fiction panel, which featured non-white authors.

“My thesis is literally about representation in YA literature, so I’m thinking about that a lot,” Welsh said. “Even though I’m white, I didn’t see a character who was gender fluid like I am until I was in high school, so having these authors here for all of these kids is such a cool opportunity.”

Diversity was a focus for the festival, according to Aguilar. She said along with diversity in book genres and a mix of middle grade and YA authors, festival organizers also focused on the diversity of the authors themselves when selecting panelists.

“We want to make sure the festival is diverse, because Irving is a very diverse city,” Aguilar said. “We really want to make sure the students who are sitting in the seats are seeing themselves reflected in the authors on the panel.”

Richa Bijay, 15, said many people her age may avoid reading because they view it as “nerdy,” but she enjoys it because it can help her understand others.