OC Children’s Book Festival reimagined into S.T.E.A.M. reading challenge

Well-known for decades for bringing popular authors, illustrators, storytellers and entertainers together with families and children who share a passion for reading, the Orange County Children’s Book Festival has — for the second consecutive year — reimagined its annual event.

Although the festival won’t be returning for an in-person celebration this year, OCCBF is partnering with the Orange County Department of Education, Orange County Public Libraries, 4SPACE Co., and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory education department to launch the S.T.E.A.M. Race to Space Reading Challenge.

The first-of-its-kind reading challenge will run from Oct. 22 through Nov. 12 and is open to all Orange County students grades from transitional kindergarten through grade 12. Local educators and families can sign up to learn more at readsteam.org.

S.T.E.A.M. reading challenge

While nothing can replace an in-person event, Pat Burns, Orange County Children’s Book Festival co-founder and executive director, says the past 18 months caused festival organizers to think bigger and come up with different, yet exciting ways to inspire families and children to find joy in reading.

“The Orange County Children’s Book Festival understands the need to inspire students of all ages, and we couldn’t think of a better way to get students and families excited about S.T.E.A.M. than to read together,” said Burns. “We believe introducing S.T.E.A.M. books early will cultivate a greater passion for science, technology, engineering, the arts, mathematics and provides more opportunities for students in their futures.”

Burns says organizers are working with a variety of New York Times best-selling authors including Adam Rex, Brandon T. Snider, Gabrielle Prendergast and Stephen E. Cosgrove to take part in a special virtual launch day on Oct. 22. More details to come on this.

Below is a brief rundown of how classrooms and students can participate.


Students, families and educators can register beginning Oct. 1 at www.readsteam.org. Participants are also encouraged to sign up for reading challenge updates and reminders by clicking on the “stay informed” link on the homepage of the website.


Once registered for the challenge, participants will be asked to select from a wide variety of S.T.E.A.M.- focused books. Reading categories have been separated into reading levels ranging from picture, earlier reader, middle grade and young adult books.

Earn prizes

All readers who participate in the challenge will earn tickets based on designated reading goals. Prizes range from digital badges to free books to a special live Q&A with astronauts and more. And top teen readers may also have the opportunity to win a tour of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.