Reading Rocks in Rockford with new festival

Get ‘fired up for reading’ with firemen or read to Ruff Readers dog

What do dogs, firefighters, theater, a parade, breakfast with VIP authors and pennies all have in common? The answer is Reading Rocks in Rockford, a new family-friendly and all-ages festival to be held in downtown Rockford on Saturday, August 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Rockford Rotary and Rockford Public Schools are teaming up with local businesses and Krause Memorial Library to celebrate the joy of reading through a variety of exciting venues. Jennifer German, branch manager of Krause Memorial Library (KML), is thrilled to have a reading festival downtown and hopes the event will become an annual family favorite. “I think it’s wonderful Rotary chose a reading festival. They have come up with some very unique and creative ways to highlight reading on many levels,” she said.

Events will take place at several locations in Rockford, including KML, City Hall and the fire barn, Reading Books Train Depot, Rockford Ace Hardware, Garden Club Park, the Rotary Pavilion, Speed Merchants and Pegasus Sports. Stroll through town to visit your favorite events—stop in for just a few or stay all day.

The festival kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with a breakfast at KML with local authors. Book clubs and the public are encouraged to attend and meet the festival authors. The cost is just $4 per person. Register by calling the library at (616) 647-3940. Authors include Jeffrey Schatzer and Carl Behrend.

At 9:45 a.m. the community is invited to take part in a storybook parade. Dress up as a favorite storybook character and meet at City Hall for the sidewalk parade. Hear Bob the Builder read aloud at Rockford Ace Hardware from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. there will be events at the Rotary Pavilion on the corner of Squires and Courtland streets (across from Arnie’s Restaurant and Bakery). Watch mime Michael Lee share “Stories Beyond Words” and Rockford Public School administrators and Rotarians will read. At 12:30 p.m. enjoy the 4-H Clown Theater followed by more VIP readers.

During the same time frame, events will also take place at Garden Club Park on the banks of the Rogue River (behind Arnie’s). Hear Carl Behrend, folksinger and author (sponsored by Rockford Rotary) of legends about the Great Lakes. Amma Sefa-Dedeh will offer presentations on the book One Hen—How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference. Jeffrey Schatzer, (sponsored by Great Northern Trading Company), author of Fires in the Wilderness, The Runaway Garden and Professor Tuesday’s Awesome Adventures, will read his stories aloud.

At Reading Books Train Depot, entertainment will include “Polar Express” performances by Valley View Elementary staff members. There will also be skits by Odyssey of the Mind, and student readers.

At KML hear Spanish language stories from 10 to 11 a.m. According to German, there will be stories, songs and a craft—all in Spanish. She said attendees need not understand Spanish to enjoy this special storytime. There will be an adult Play Grow and Read workshop for adults who work with children. This mini-class will teach about the six pre-reading skills and fun ways to help pre-readers. At 1:00 p.m. youngsters will enjoy the opportunity to read to a dog from Ruff Readers. “This is really good for kids, because dogs are very non-judgemental,” said German. Trained dogs listen carefully to kids reading a favorite book from home or one off the shelves at the library. “Dogs don’t mind if you mispronounce a word. They really do seem to be listening and enjoying the story,” German described.

At 2 p.m. all ages are invited to discuss the book Three Cups of Tea. German said the book has an adult version, a teen version and a picture book. She believes it will be enjoyable to have all ages involved in this discussion and sharing thoughts on this special publication. Herman’s Boy will provide tea to accompany the conversation.

Kids will enjoy the chance to get “fired up over reading” at the fire barn throughout the day with a firefighter. They can try on fire gear at the fire station, located at City Hall, and learn about bike safety from Rockford Ambulance. At 1:00 p.m. author Jeffrey Schatzer with read aloud.

At Pegasus Sports, combine a love of athletics with reading as Rockford High School football players read from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. WZZM’s Tom Clyde will be on hand, mime Michael Lee will visit, and at 12:30 p.m. the Rockford girls crew team will read.

At Garden Club Park enjoy the Author’s Row featuring at least 15 local and statewide authors available to sell and sign their books. Take advantage of the Scholastic Book Sale as well as a picnic adventure from 11:30 a.m. Corner Bar and Arnie’s will offer special lunch deals or bring your own for an outdoor meal in the midst of the day’s activities.

“Wouldn’t it be great if Rockford became known as the place where authors come to read and promote their books?” said organizer Susan Bodenner of this event. She hopes the event will become an annual town festival that will draw an increasing number of authors.

The entire event kicks off Rockford Public Schools’ Pennies for Peace campaign, which ties into the book Three Cups of Tea. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School At A Time, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, recounts the journey that led Greg Mortenson, Central Asia Institute co-founder, from a failed attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2 to successfully establish dozens of schools, and promote girls’ education in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan.Find out more while enjoying Rockford’s first Reading Rocks in Rockford festival Saturday, August 29.

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