Authors, literacy experts and community members will come together to celebrate reading Saturday at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.
The first St. Pete Reads! Lit Festival will kick off from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The festival, held by Cultured Books Literacy Foundation in partnership with Barbershop Book Club and St. Petersburg College, will provide free food, books and literacy workshops to those who attend.
The event was born from community conversations around reading and literacy in the historic Deuces neighborhood in St. Petersburg, said Cultured Books founder Lorielle Hollaway.
Hollaway started her organization in 2016 with the intention of “promoting a culture of reading,” especially among Black youth. She said over the past few years she’s heard a desire from parents for reading workshops and events to be more accessible.
“Our purpose is really just to create positive literacy-based experiences for our community,” Hollaway said. “We want to make reading a celebration.”
Programming on Saturday will include readings from local authors Antwan Williams and Jamecia Buggs.
Greg Neri, a teen fiction writer and author of “Ghetto Cowboy,” will read from his book and take part in a storytelling panel. His book, described as an urban-western, centers on the story of an inner-city teen finding his way.
According to data from the Florida Department of Education, the gap between white and Black students reading at grade level last year was 28 percentage points. In Pinellas County, the margin is even wider, with just 25% of Black students reading on level, compared with 63% of white students.
Hollaway said that closing the gap is a big task — her organization and the purpose of Saturday’s event is to create positive and accessible reading events for the community.
“We know that if your confidence is broken you might be less likely to engage (with reading),” Hollaway said. “That’s why it’s important to make it fun.”
In addition to book readings, the outdoor event will include a yoga session, dance party and financial literacy workshop.
The Phyllis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign, St. Petersburg Literacy Council, Tampa Bay Dream Defenders, and Keep St. Pete Lit are among the other literacy organizations that will be present.
Hollaway said that St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is expected to make an appearance and sign a proclamation declaring the first Saturday in November “St. Pete Reads Day.”
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Want to go?
What: St. Pete Reads! Lit Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, 2240 Ninth Ave S, St. Petersburg
More information: https://www.culturedbooks.org/stpetereads