Orange County Children’s Book Festival to promote diversity in literacy

The annual Orange County Children’s Book Festival, coming up this weekend on Oct. 2, will star an array of authors — among them actors, designers, animators and space engineers.

This event has opened kids’ eyes to new subjects and novels since its inaugural event in 2004. The no-cost, family-friendly day is organized by a team made up almost entirely of volunteers under the leadership of co-founder and Executive Director Pat Burns. In its 19th year, the book celebration once again invites K-12 Orange County students to explore a variety of activities while they discover featured authors. It will be held at Orange Coast College this Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

OC Children's Book Festival Poster

This longstanding event is co-sponsored by the Orange County Department of Education and other local agencies including festival organizer, Timeless Learning, Inc., which believes, “all children regardless of social or economic status, deserve the opportunity to meet, engage and learn from authors and illustrators while discovering the enjoyment books provide within our lives.” 

There will be six main stages to visit on the festival grounds, with train rides, face painting, balloon art, a bounce house and live animals.

Burns said she’s thrilled to have the opportunity to organize this annual event, which she hopes will continue to spark the joy of reading in the minds of young students. One of Burns’ duties includes selecting each of the event’s 70 presenters. 

Authors from all walks life

Artist Paul Frank
Cartoonist Paul Frank

This year’s standout guests include popular TV series actor and author Justin Baldoni, as well as Southern California’s own “Julius the Monkey” design creator and cartoonist, Paul Frank.

Joining Frank on the entertainment stage will be 16-year-old fashion designer and first-time children’s book author Kheris Rogers. Kheris became the youngest designer to debut at New York Fashion Week with her clothing line, “Flexin’ In My Complexion,” which she will discuss along with her book, “Shine Bright.”

Each stage will host about five to 10 authors with additional guest speakers, educational presentations and live performances. Kids can choose to attend the “Entertainment,” “Storyteller,” “Illustrator and Inspiration,” “Animal and Nature” and “S.T.E.A.M. Ahead” stages, as well as the festival’s newest addition, the “World Stories and Adventures” stage. The latter will exclusively host bilingual authors and cultural displays, including a performance with Scottish dancers and bagpipe players.

Kheris Rogers' book, "Shine Bright"

With each passing year of this fun-filled day, Burns especially enjoys seeing kids’ reactions to the many special guests.

“It’s the look on their face when they’re getting a book autographed. I wander around and watch for expressions,” she said. “We have three photographers that roam the grounds, and I always say, ‘Get that look of joy.’ And to just see them watching an author personalize a book to them, it’s just so great.”

Burns added that she hopes the event’s exciting features will help kids gain a new mindset around literature. 

“It’s really about bringing that magic to families and kids that books are cool, reading is great and it’s worth celebrating,” she said.

The S.T.E.A.M. Ahead stage will be emceed by OCDE’s STEM and Career Technical Education Curriculum Specialist Omar Shepherd. This area will host active science demonstrations while spotlighting accomplished professionals in science, technology, engineering and math who interweave their expertise into their children’s books.

Inspiring careers in STEAM 

While the majority of the festivities will take place outdoors, the Orange Coast College Planetarium will open its doors for guests to immerse themselves in exhibits like the “Science on a Sphere Explorer” and NASA’s “Eyes On” interactives.

STEAM Race to Space Reading Challenge

Although the book fest is a one-day event, students can continue putting their reading skills to the test in the second annual S.T.E.A.M. Race to Space Reading Challenge from Oct. 14 to Nov. 4.

This challenge is intended to inspire students’ exploration of careers in areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence while learning about STEM and the arts through storybooks. Participating K-12 students and their families can refer to the recommended lists of STEM-themed books based on their grade level. Every child who completes the reading challenge will receive a certificate of completion, along with a rewards package.

Families can find more information about the festival on the Orange County Children’s Book Festival 2022 Event website, which includes a link to the online event guide. Teachers who want to get involved with the reading challenge can learn more at S.T.E.A.M. Race to Space Reading Challenge resources.

The festival’s sponsors and partners also include PBS SoCal, Orange Coast College, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, KIA America, Rise Up Foundation, Norms Restaurants, Wawanesa Insurance, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Literati, 92.7 Air1 Radio, 4Space, Orange County Public Libraries, Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ ArtsTeach, Yelp, Plan A Day Out, Grandparents ROCK and Polly’s Pies Restaurant & Bakery.