(Above: Children's Fairyland Shana Barchas, the education director at Children's Fairyland in Oakland, appears at Alice's Reading Room, one of many Fairyland stations at which kids' book authors will meet with children at the "Turn the Page!" event.)
Last week, I was praising Glenview Elementary School in Oakland for teaching the kids that reading is fun. Instead of forcing them to do extra reading as punishment for being bad – the way schools used to do when I was these kids' age – they're permitted to do extra reading as a reward for being good.
This week, let me praise Children's Fairyland for teaching the same lesson in a different way: By staging its first-ever book festival for kids who are even younger: 2 to 8 years old.
The cream of the crop of local children's book authors and illustrators will be on hand to talk with the little tykes for this all-day extravaganza - called Turn The Page! – which will take place throughout the park on Saturday, April 23, from 10 to 4.
There will be read-alouds, art demonstrations, sneak peeks at books that are being worked on, and an inside look into the process of creating a book.
"We want kids to see that books don't just magically appear," says C.J. Hirschfield, Fairyland's executive director. "Somebody gets the idea. Somebody writes it. And somebody does the illustrations. And that somebody could be them."
The children will get a chance to meet more than 25 authors and illustrators, including Lisa Brown, Marcus Ewert, Aya de Leon, Elisa Kleven, and Muon Van.
On the Emerald City stage, a cozy little venue that makes it easier to chat with the little ones in the audience, authors and illustrators will team up to describe the creative process, including Annie Barrows, author of the "Ivy And Bean" series; Innosanto Nagara, author and illustrator of "A Is For Activist;" and Kathryn Otoshi, author and illustrator of "One," a picture book about bullying.
"They'll show the kids things like 'This is what the art looked like when I first started drawing the character, and this is how it turned out,'" says Shana Barchas, Fairyland's education director.
Meanwhile, in the Japanese Tea Garden, volunteers from the Oakland Public Library will teach the kids the art of bookmaking, from the first word to the final product.
"They'll write and illustrate their own book and put it together," Barchas says. "Then they can either keep the book or put it on a shelf of the Oakland Public Library's one-of-a-kind popup library – a bike with shelves on the back - and swap it for a book some other child has made."
Over in the Merry Meadow, authors and illustrators will be doing informal meet-and-greets with their tiniest readers. Luann Strauss, owner of Laurel Book Store, and her crew will also be on hand to sell books by all the authors and illustrators, which the kids can then get autographed in person.
And while all this is going on, Fairyland's regular activities will go on as usual, including a brand new musical at the Puppet Theater: "Puff The Magic Dragon," a spinoff of the famous Peter, Paul & Mary song with one big difference: This version has a happy ending. (There's no other kind at Fairyland.)
Kudos to Kaiser Permanente, which is presenting the festival with support from Chronicle Books. And kudos to the folks at Fairyland who have worked so hard to put this together.
"We've wanted to do this for sooooo long!" says Hirschfield.
It was worth the wait.