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September 22, 2012

Celebrating imagination of children’s literature

ANDERSON, Ind. —  Diane Vargo always teaches her children that the gift of reading — the joy and love of it — is something that can never be taken from them.

That gift was celebrated during the Fourth Annual Elizabeth York Children’s Literature Festival at Anderson University.

Vargo, a first- grade teacher at Anderson Elementary, was excited to go to the festival to hear one of several children’s literature authors — Keiko Kasza — speak. She said the opportunity to meet and hear Kasza speak was one she couldn’t pass up.

Anderson women Virginia Green and Donna Nobles — both working on writing children’s books themselves — said being able to hear more about the process of crafting children’s literature was what drew them to the festival Saturday.

“To listen to what other authors went through to get a book published, the struggles they had, the things that they did, that will be very helpful and a great experience,” Green said. “This festival has been very enlightening, especially the networking we’ve been able to do.”

Nobles said in addition to the education, she said learning more about the value and process of children’s literature has helped her hone some “grandmother skills” when it comes to reading, joking that the event has been a good resource for her to get books for her grandchildren.

The festival — with more than 150 in attendance — began Saturday morning at AU’s Nicholson Library where the Elizabeth York children’s literature collection is housed. The festival began in 2009 to commemorate the gift of more than 10,000 children’s books from York. Contained in this special section of the library is rare and first edition children’s books, more common titles and non-book items, said Janet Brewer, AU library director.

There is no over-arching speciality of the collection but there are some specialities including more than 100 pop-up books and a rich selection of “ABC” books, she said.

Each year during the festival items from the collection are featured. This year some of the items featured for attendees to see included Robert Frost titles, Robert Louis Stevenson books and children’s books that has been made into movies.

Brewer said this special children’s literature gift is part of the library’s rare books room and the items won’t be circulated. But the portion of the gift already cataloged — about 60 percent — is available to both students and the general public to be viewed and interacted with in the library’s viewing room, she said.

One of the highlights of Saturday’s festival was about “Elisabeth and the Water-Troll,” a children’s book that was turned into an opera. On hand was both the author and composer as well as AU music students who preformed selections from the pieces.

“We are celebrating the imagination of children’s literature,” Brewer said. “We hope people thing about children’s literature in a broader sense and more in-depth then they did in the past.”

The collection — while rare for universities, especially of AU’s size — is something that she said is beneficial to students in a variety of fields from education to sociology to literature. Brewer also said once the scope of children’s literature on hand at AU is broader known, researchers from throughout the country will be utilizing the collection.

Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.

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