Author and illustrator Ben Clanton speaks with children at the Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival. Photos by Whitney Pottschmidt and Sonja Brandt
By Janis Wagner
More than 15,000 students and adults attended the Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival for its 24th annual conference, making it a record high for the event.
There were schools, librarians, and teachers from Nebraska as well as other states in attendance throughout the day. Only 6,000 people were on campus physically, however –the other 9,000 experienced the festival in their own schools. Featured guests included famous authors such as Ben Clanton, Alan Katz, Wendell Minor, Barbara O’Connor and Kate DiCamillo. They have written fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels and for TV series.
Friday was the children’s day when students could learn from interactive exhibits and attend different workshops of their favorite authors. It was also the first day that the book purchasing table was set up in the Janzow Campus Center. It included books by the authors attending the festival, as well as the option to purchase signed books from previous festivals for a reduced price, such as titles from the “Judy Moody” series, “The Diary of a Worm” and “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.”
Friday also featured performances from the Curtain Club in their production of “All the Answers,” written by author Kate Messner, adapted by junior Mary Kohnke and directed by junior Brianna Dehn. “All the Answers” is about the different possibilities Ava Anderson (junior Hannah Watt) is given when an old pencil starts to tell her answers to things like homework and tests. Anderson eventually realizes that the pencil is a burden for her. The actors appreciated the chance to perform in a different genre.
“Plum Creek allowed me to witness firsthand how theater and literacy go hand-in-hand,” sophomore Miriam Wolf said. “Theater encourages children to read and develop a life-long love of reading, which goes on to better their academic, professional and personal lives.”
Students that were not involved with the theater aspect had the opportunity to benefit from the event on Saturday. Saturday was the adult conference, which students and faculty could attend for free. Some of the conferences included were “Picture Books and Social Justice,” “Book Clubs” and “Talking Pictures/Reading Pictures.” Attendees were able to have their books signed in the morning and afternoon and meet the authors.
“Some students don’t want to be authors or illustrators and that’s okay,” Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival Director Dylan Teut said. “But often times, most authors and illustrators talk not only about their craft, but also what it means to preserve and follow their dreams.”
Senior Aimee Howe, an elementary education major, appreciates that the conference has a direct, personal impact on her future as an educator.
“Working at Plum Creek has influenced my path as a teacher in so many ways,” Howe said. “It has shown me how literacy can impact the lives of not only students, but the lives of teachers and adults alike. The power of literacy is so inspiring in the field of education and I can’t wait to see what I can do with it.”
Attendees are excited for next year’s conference as many have made it a tradition, bringing picture frames and jackets for authors to sign. Authors are just as eager to attend, knowing that the event is scheduled up to three years in advance so they are likely to be able to attend if they are asked.
“Each year the authors say that this festival is so unique,” Teut said. “The committee members and authors really become a family during the days they’re here … Concordia does not stop being the Concordia we all know and love during the festival–we see our values exemplified and demonstrated to our many guests.”