Crowds Flock to Fairlane Village for annual reading festival

POTTSVILLE — Hundreds of people attended The Republican-Herald Family Reading Festival on Saturday at the Fairlane Village mall.

“Kids need to have imagination. They need to read books,” Gerri Haley, Palo Alto, said as she finished talking to one of the 15 authors at the event.

It was the 30th year for the event. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., children were immersed in the love of reading, meeting authors and having fun.

Haley said books can make quite an impression on people. She has a book from her childhood that she has fond memories of.

Haley bought the book “The Great Green Tree and the Magical Ladders” from author Stephen Kozan, 37, of Harrisburg, to give her 10-year-old granddaughter, Haley Runkle.

Kozan signed the book: To Haley, Climb High! Never look back!

The book is about a young girl named Shea Stonebrook, 10, who learns how her decisions can affect others. It is appropriate for children in second to sixth grade.

“It’s a fantasy adventure,” Kozan said.

Shea meets different creatures in a tree that help her learn important lessons throughout the story. During her journey, she learns to open her eyes to the world around her.

“I have decided to make it a series,” he said of “The Great Green Tree and the Magical Ladders.”

Kozan’s other book, “The Journal of a Lifetime,” is about a 12-year-old boy named Ray who lives with his grandfather, who is very important to him. One day his grandfather, Don Lee, gives the boy a journal and tells him to write his life story. The book is for children in fifth to eighth grade.

“Some things I pull from my own life,” Kozan said.

The book is set in Mitchell, South Dakota, a location he picked when he started writing the book when he was 12.

“I wrote it at a friend’s house overnight,” he said.

After going through his garage one day, Kozan said he found the book in a box and rewrote some of it. An editor looked at the book and a friend, Tony Maulfair, did the illustrations. Kozan said he remembers as a child always being interested in writing. He wrote poems and taped them to his school walls, he said.

In addition to meeting authors, children had the chance to make bookmarks among other arts and crafts, meet Curious George and register to win free books.

Mitzi Jo was a big hit. The 13-year-old Jack Russell pug mix was sitting on a table next to her owner, LuJean, Burns, Bucks County. Jean wrote three books about doggy day care. Mitzi is the narrator in the books — “A Doggy Day Care,” “A Doggy Day Care A Summer Day,” and “An Autumn Day A Doggy Daycare Day.”

Her inspiration for the books comes from real life. The dogs in the book are one that have visited her day care and are pictured in the book. She said there are lessons about respect, boundaries and how dogs get along.

Jennifer Richard, 36, of Pottsville, at the festival with her children, Emily, 11, Irelynn, 7, and Layla, 6. The children took turns petting Mitzi Jo. Jennifer said her children love to read.

“I love it,” Irelynn said of the festival. She liked the different authors and a stand by the Pottsville District Libraries at the event. The children could get a free book, coloring sheets and have other kinds of fun at the library tables.

Four libraries were represented at the area with the Pottsville District Libraries, Pottsville Free Public Library, Orwigsburg Area Free Public Library, Ashland Public Library and the Ringtown Area Library.

Angel Casella, 42, of Schuylkill Haven, decided to come to the event for the first time with her grandchildren, Anthony Casella, 4, Alayna Navarro, 5, Andrea Vinalay, 9, and Ariana Vinalay, 7, all of Schuylkill Haven.

“It’s wonderful. They have so many activities. Anything to help promote reading in the youth is positive,” she said.

Children also had a good time at the Saint Clair Area School District table. They were one of several schools attending the event.

Children could make birthday candles for Curious George, play a memory game and get their picture taken as the man in the yellow hat from the Curious George series. Lisa Gasper, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, said the school has been at the event for at least 18 years.

Curious George was seen at the event and even had his picture taken with children.

Janet Joyce, director of marketing and community services for The Republican-Herald, said the event is a success because of the cooperation of all involved especially the teachers.

“You’ve got to give the teachers a lot of credit,” she said.

More than 350 students registered at the newspaper booth during the event.

“The school with the highest percentage of participation is St. Ambrose with over 25 percent of their students and faculty at the event. The second place parochial school was Assumption BVM The top two public schools were Schuylkill Haven and John S. Clarke, both of which had very good participation this year,” Joyce said.