More than 1,100 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders enjoyed an abbreviated short story rather than a novel Wednesday at this year’s Franklin County Children’s Literature Festival on the campus of Ottawa University. The shorter day, resulting from early release schedules at area schools, enabled other happy readers — teachers and other Franklin County Reading Council members — to spend time with the authors too.
The 13th annual festival has made a name for itself among area authors, as well as students, because of its quality participants, organizations and sponsors. At the heart of the event is its founder and literal symbol, former elementary school teacher, mentor and literacy advocate, Gerry Getty. Getty, who only was able to attend the inaugural year’s festival before becoming ill its second year and later dying, took her dream for a children’s literature festival to her friends and colleagues at the Franklin County Reading Council, and they all worked together to make it happen. The event continues to improve each year, just like the imagination sparked in each child’s mind when they meet the authors behind the books they love to read.
Though some of the authors return year after year, new authors are invited each year. One first-time author attendee this year, Beverley Olson Buller, Newton, author of “A Prairie Peter Pan — The Story of Mary White” and “From Emporia: The Story of William Allen White,” said she had heard about Ottawa’s festival while attending a similar event at Warrensburg, Mo., and was thrilled to get to participate in the special day.
This year’s authors and storytellers also included David Greenberg, Robert Burleigh, Jean Patrick, Michael Wimmer, Janet Stevens, Dianna Waite, Mary Casanova, Laura Huliska-Beith, Christine Taylor-Butler, Dandi Mackall and local favorite Alan Cunningham. Each brings his or her own style and literal story to the event and each hopes to nurture more dreamers, readers and writers among their attentive festival participants, whether those be the students or — this year — the teachers.
Olson Buller, who retired young from being a longtime teacher and librarian, believes in living the professional motto she posts on her website “Anyone can like to read if they find the right book.” Each of the authors at Ottawa’s event hopes to help local children foster a love for reading and wants nothing more than to connect kids with the book that ignites their interest, imagination and love for books. Those same passions no doubt drove the many local sponsors that support the effort financially year after year.
This event puts Ottawa on the map as a go-to destination for children’s authors — an accomplishment that goes well beyond Gerry Getty’s wildest dreams.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher