The Franklin County Children’s Literature Festival received a big shot in the arm as a local organization stepped forward to become a partner not only for this year, but for years to come.

Vickie Hall, an organizer of the literature festival, said the Friends of the Library in Ottawa signed on to become a new partner.

“We could not continue without [that partnership],” Hall said. “We are an affiliate of the Friends of the Library. They were excited to take us on. We are more firmly tied to the community.”

Terry Chartier, Ottawa library director, said in the Friends of the Library newsletter that this was something that needed to happen.

“It just seemed like a natural partnership bringing the literature festival under the umbrella of the FOL was a great solution,” she said.

The 17th annual event is set for April 24 at Ottawa University, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa. The festival invites all the county third- through fifth-grade students. Hall said there are about 1,200 attendees, which includes students, teachers, parents and college students.

“It is an exciting event,” Hall said. “There is going to be a big crowd. We want to keep literacy on the front burner. Literacy is vital. If you are not literate, none of the other skills will come a long. You have to be literate first. It is so important.”

Hall said the festival’s reputation is known among children’s authors throughout the nation.

“We don’t know of any other festival that is like ours,” Hall said. “Our community has really embraced this.”

She said past presenters continue to suggest other authors for future years and authors even ask to be a part of the festival.

“It is neat,” Hall said.

Hall, a retired fourth grade teacher, said students comment to her how they have enjoyed attending the festival.

The 2018 festival presenters are Julia Cook, David Greenberg, Tim Lowry, Kenn Nesbitt, Brad Sneed, Lois Raby and Janet Stevens.

Hall said it is important for the children to meet the authors and see they are real people and in turn want to read their books.

She said Lowry, a poet, and Nesbitt, a storyteller, are new presenters. Greenberg, a poet, is returning to the festival after a few years’ absence, she said. Greenberg wrote a book about his father being a lawyer for Martin Luther King, Hall said.

Hall said Stevens, who has been at the festival before, is an award-winning children’s author. She said Sneed, who is from the Kansas City, Missouri, area, has been a presenter a number of times.

Hall said Ruby is a fantastic presenter and author. She wrote a couple of books set in Lawrence.

Cook will be one of the featured authors. She will present a program to Ottawa kindergarten through second-grade students on March 23.

“She is a school counselor and started writing books about kids issues,” Hall said. “One of the reasons we wanted her to come is she has written a book ‘I am not scared, I am prepared.’ It is about dealing with safety in schools. She has worked with the ALICE Institute for active shooters. She has two therapy dogs that travel with her. The kids just love her.”

Hall said the Franklin County Reading Council works year-round to organize the festival.

“We are looking forward to it,” Hall said. “It is very exciting [every year].”