Yesterday, the Library of Congress hosted the annual National Book Festival at the National Mall here in D.C. After finding out about it in the weekend newspaper, I knew I definitely had to be there. So even though it was pouring outside, I grabbed my trusty umbrella, plugged myself in (to my ipod lol) and trekked over to the National Mall. It was spectacular! It had been quite a while since I felt extremely giddy with excitement, and that’s exactly how I felt once I stepped onto the program grounds. There were pavilions/ tents set up everywhere, with notices indicating what genre of books were housed there: Poetry and Prose, Teens & Children, History & Biography, Mystery & Thrillers etc etc. There were authors who gave speeches and had book signing periods, and even though I didn’t get to see John Grisham (his talk was scheduled for 10am), I got to listen to some spectacular authors! Unfortunately (and quite mysteriously), some of the pictures and videos I took disappeared from my camera. And those were the interesting ones too!!
Anyways, I had a pretty swell time, and it took me a trip down memory lane. Book fairs have always been great events for me. In Alsyd (primary school and junior high) we’d have mini-book fairs from companies like “Books for Less” and they were always spectacular. The culture of reading is one which I greatly believe in, and even though we’re in a technologically-advanced era with e-books, podcasts, audio-books etc, there’s something so intimate about curling up in bed with a book. Total escape. And with initiatives like the National Book Festival, how can one not get drawn back into reading? I wonder if Ghana and other African countries have similar initiatives, if not, this is one definitely worth ‘borrowing’ – especially with the new crop of young African writers springing up across the continent. Another initiative in Alsyd was to award students who’d borrowed the most books from the library that year. I had the pleasure of being one of the first students to win that award, and if anything, it encouraged my classmates and I to read more.
Aside the various tents, they also had a couple of “America Reads” sections where kids could play word games, meet human-sized book characters etc. Not surprising, I had the most fun in the “Teens & Children” section. The author — don’t remember his name — was really engaging and told a story about how he and his childhood friend were determined to ruin a toy they had bought specifically for that purpose: destroying it. I’d filmed it, and would have put it up, but unfortunately I lost it :(. At the end of the anecdote, he talked about why he utilizes multi-media – videos, internet, CDs etc – in his work. As a (clearly) distracted child, he would rarely sit still for a few minutes, much more pick up an entire book and read, so he figured incorporating multi-media – collector cards, internet games and so on – he could get more kids interested in reading. Which I think is pretty smart. When I was 11 years old, my parents got my siblings and I, a couple of education-based CDs – Carmen Sandiego Math and Geography – and they were so interesting and engaging that we forgot we were actually “learning”. I liked the Geography edition the most, cos I got to solve crimes and travel the world over in search of the villain, and boy, did I learn a lot about countries and their capitals, monuments, culture etc. [Mayhap, that has something to do with my aptitude for picking up languages and my interest in traveling and international affairs?]
Okay, so instead of going on and on about the event, I’m just gonna put up the pictures that I do have so you guys can share in what was a great event. Enjoy!!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.