The Waco Junior Book Festival encourages literacy with author panels, book signings and prizes

WACO, TX (KWTX) – Latest report from the Pew Research Center shows that reading for fun has become less popular among US children and teenagers as more children choose to go online instead.

A Waco couple is hoping to change that statistic with the inaugural CenTex Book Fest on the Brazos, held Saturday at Indian Spring High School.

Hosted by Lite Waco, a nonprofit organization founded by Keith and Tracy Guillory to promote literacy, the all-day event is designed to connect young readers, especially teenagers, with books and the authors who write them.

“It’s never too late to learn, it’s never too late to fall in love with reading, picking up books and growing up in those areas,” said Keith Guillory, co-founder of Lite Waco and festival organizers. “And that’s why we really focus on the juniors.”

The free festival featured 17 visiting authors — from Waco and around the country — who participated in panel discussions, book signings, writing workshops and more for aspiring readers.

“A lot of times, a kid gets a book, they don’t know who wrote it, they never get a chance to sit down and talk to the author,” Keith said.

Keith’s wife and co-founder Tracy Guillory agreed.

“Yes, and also show them that they can be authors,” Tracy said of the goal of the event. “It’s not all about being a basketball player or a football player or a doctor or a lawyer. You can be an author.”

For 11-year-old participant Jayden Christian, he says reading allows him to learn more about his history and culture.

“I read two books about Frederick Douglass and realized how important he was to black history,” he told KWTX.

For Christian’s aunt Londonria Gilmore, one of the other participants in the event, the festival is a way to show representation through literacy.

“A lot of people, especially in this neighborhood, which is East Waco, some don’t have a lot of resources,” Gilmore said. “So I think creating and showing the diversity of authors that are out there today is a representation that we’re more inclined to pick up a book by an author who looks like us.”

The Guillorys’ hope is that Saturday’s event will inspire change among young readers in all areas of their lives.

“We want to see reading scores go up, we want to see our young people just grow and expand themselves from this event,” Keith said.

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