YSU English Festival this week: It’s all about the books

stack-of-booksYoungstown State University’s English Festival, celebrating its 37th year this week, may mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but there’s one common theme: books.

“Books are the center of all that we do,” said Gary Salvner, Festival co-chair emeritus and retired professor and chair of English at YSU.  “Kids read them, authors talk about them and we give away hundreds every year.”

Over nearly four decades, middle and high school students attending the annual event have read nearly 750,000 books. In addition, more than 300,000 books have been given to students as prizes for various Festival competitions. And, in an initiative started just three years ago, the Festival has collected and donated nearly 7,000 books.

More than 3,000 middle school and high school students will attend this year’s Festival Wednesday, Thursday and Friday April 22, 23 and 24 in YSU’s Kilcawley Center. One of the most successful and enduring annual events in YSU’s history, the Festival brings together students to discuss books, meet authors and participate in writing competitions.

Each year, area schools attending the Festival donate books, said Angela Messenger, director of the YSU Writing Center and Festival co-chair. The school that donates the most books each day of the Festival wins a $50 gift card, sponsored by Friends of Maag Library and Waste Free Maag. The books are donated to various charitable organizations, including the Beatitude House, First Book Mahoning Valley and Meridian Women’s Center.

Books also have been given to a school district in New Jersey to distribute to displaced families of Hurricane Sandy and to the Girard-Liberty Rotary Club for the Poorest of the Poor program, which helps needy Appalachian families. Books also have been donated to Ohio State University’s ATI Study Abroad program, which delivered the books to establish libraries in Ghana in Africa, and the Hartville Migrant Center for the families of migrant workers.

This year, books will again be donated to the African library program and the Hartville Migrant Center, as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown and the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center, Messenger said.

This year’s festival features the appearance of two authors, Gary D. Schmidt and Jennifer Buehler. Schmidt is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. He received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor for his book, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, and a Newbery Honor for his book, The Wednesday Wars. Buehler is an assistant professor of Educational Studies at Saint Louis University. She is the host of Text Messages, a monthly young adult literature podcast sponsored by www.readwritethink.org.

For more information, visit the YSU English Festival website.