It’s a Book Party on the National Mall

Library of Congress Festival Celebrates the Joy of Reading for All

Posted September 22, 2008 at 4:16pm

While her husband hashes out a new economic plan for the country, Laura Bush will be taking respite this weekend from the pressures of the White House and kicking back on the National Mall with a book.

The first lady will be hosting the eighth annual National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress and featuring 72 authors in six pavilions.

“There are activities for all ages at the National Book Festival,” she said in a release. “Readers can explore genres from history and mystery to romance and cookbooks. Children can meet their favorite storybook characters. And visitors can learn about the extensive resources offered by the Library of Congress.”

The wide array of authors includes hometown favorites Warren Brown, who will read from his book “CakeLove” (named for his U Street bakery), and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who will read from her latest offering, “Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers.”

Those who attend can visit themed pavilions including children, teen and children, fiction and mystery, history and biography, home and family, and poets. Each pavilion will feature authors from that genre who will read their writing, sign books and hold a question and answer session with the audience.

“We are trying to really encourage not only a love of reading, but a love of learning,” festival planner Roberta Stevens says. “It doesn’t matter what you’re reading, you’re learning.” Stevens says her favorite part of the festival is watching the audience interact with the authors.

The festival has traditionally been hosted by the first lady, though she hasn’t always been in attendance. This year the former librarian will appear as a co-author with her daughter Jenna in support of their children’s book, “Read All About It!”

“She has been a real advocate of us over the years,” Stevens says. “She’s been very actively involved in the planning.”

In keeping with the theme of children, there will be many activities for young readers who attend the festival. In addition to the pavilions that cater to kids, there will also be an opportunity for children to make books and have their photos taken with Target’s Bullseye dog. Kids will also be given the chance to nominate some of their favorite books to be translated into Arabic for young readers across the globe.

“We have PBS characters who are wandering through the grounds, the characters they see on television,” Stevens says. “It really comes to life.”

The National Book Festival first began eight years ago. Each festival has been recorded and logged on the LOC’s Web site for posterity. Those who can’t make it to the Mall can tune in on their computers and still partake in the experience.

“We hope people are inspired again with a love of reading,” Stevens says. “This festival has been just a joy for us to do.”