Education students, local authors, and character actors have gained the opportunity to showcase their talents and skill sets in Valencia College’s Children’s Reading Festival. Professor Paula DaSilva, an education professor at Valencia College, was inspired to create the event due to education students’ need for service learning hours in an educational setting during the pandemic. “It was really about creating a program that would allow students to complete those hours in a way that was meaningful for them and children and families. Bethany[Castillo] came in and had all these great ideas on who we might bring on for the festival,” states Professor DaSilva.
Bethany Castillo is a freshman at Valencia College, majoring in Secondary Education. She got involved with the project via Valencia Future Educators, and Professor DaSilva credits a lot of the success of the festival to her. Bethany was inspired by more than just the service hours for the project, however. She was inspired by the community. Mrs.Castillo states, “I wanted to not only incorporate the students but entertainers as well. We have also contacted a few local authors as well, so not only are we having acting talent, but student talents and local authors, which I think is a really good way to showcase Central Florida as a whole.”
The festival will not only prove to be an event just for Valencia’s education students, Central Florida talents or children and their families, but to virtually everyone. While the festival is marketed as a children’s festival where children and their families are welcome, anyone is able to attend upon registration. Professor DaSilva claims, “I think some of the topics that are being touched on are so universal. While these are children’s stories, there are so many levels that can be engaged on.”
Bethany Castillo also states, “We have such a diverse group of students, as far as age ranges, different arts programs, a great theater program, etc. As far as students, this is a great festival for anybody. It can just be something fun regardless of their major, and it gives them the opportunity to see something new.”
Professor DaSilva and Mrs.Castillo both hope that the event will continue in the future, with Professor DaSilva stating, “This is a sort of pilot project, and I hope to continue it in libraries or bookstores, but I don’t see this being a one-time event. Literacy is so important for children. The younger we can capture the children’s imagination and love of reading, the better and easier it is for them to be engaged in their community.”
To attend the festival, you must register for the session of their interest. The festival will be held March 30-April 2 from 4-6 p.m.