The 22nd annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival has arrived, and with it comes a fully virtual celebration of the power of reading. The festival showcases nearly 30 best-selling authors in addition to crafts, contests and prizes all month long this March.
Live events start March 1, but attendees can visit the festival website now to view the author lineup, plan their schedule and take a look at the virtual marketplace booths. Visit www.eventhub.shop/readfest today for early access to the online festival.
Nightly author presentations are offered weekdays March 1 through March 12 on the event platform. Youth and teen authors stream online at 6 p.m. and adult authors follow at 7 p.m. These presentations are also being broadcast simultaneously on LeeTV (Comcast Cable channel 97 and CenturyLink’s Prism TV Channel 88 in Lee County).
The award-winning authors scheduled to present as part of the festival include adult authors Jennifer Chiaverini, Gregg Hurwitz, Jayne Ann Krentz and Kyle Mills, as well as youth and teen authors J.C. Cervantes, Greg Pizzoli, Julie Berry and Ryan La Sala. The complete list of authors can be found listed on the event website, along with the presentation schedule.
“The Lee County Library System is proud to put together such an outstanding event every year,” library director Mindi Simon said. “The Southwest Florida Reading Festival has a stellar reputation for bringing the best literary talent to our community, and this year is no exception.”
Attendees won’t want to miss the Live Meet & Greet events immediately following the author interviews for their chance to engage with the best-selling lineup via video and text chat. Additional opportunities to chat with authors will be offered during the Saturday Live Booth Sessions on March 6 and 13. Attendees should check each author’s virtual booth to see when they are available to chat. After the author presentations conclude on March 13, festival attendees will be able to watch the recorded content on-demand in the video archive booth through March 31.
This year’s festival introduces a virtual marketplace featuring local authors and writing organizations. Vendors will be available to meet festival attendees during the scheduled Live Booth Sessions the first two Saturdays, from 1 to 3 p.m. March 6 and 13. Attendees will be able to chat live within in each participating author’s booth.
Other components of the festival were designed to reflect the activities typically found in the annual in-person event. Participants of all ages can enjoy the grab-and-go crafts, online reading program, festival bingo and S.T.E.A.M. contests featuring LEGO, art and creativity challenges. Even autographed books will be provided to attendees in the form of signed book plates that can be adhered to the inside of books. A limited supply of signed book plates is available at no charge and requests clearly indicating the author preference, along with a physical mailing address, should be made by email to [email protected].
As in previous years, the festival will provide each participating child and teen with a free, new book. This year, the free books will be distributed inside of the age-appropriate grab-and-go craft kits, which can be requested from any of the 13 Lee County Library System branches through curbside pickup or at the reference desks from Feb. 22 through March 13, while supplies last. Crafts and free books are specifically tailored for each age group: babies, pre-k, kids (grades k-2), kids (grades 3-5), middle and high school teens, and adults.
Festival participants are encouraged to sign up for the online reading and activity challenge or to complete the paper-based reading bingo for chances to win prizes and book baskets with festival author book titles. The deadline to log reading and activities is March 31. Free reader accounts can be created using the READsquared app or by visiting the website www.readfest.org.
S.T.E.A.M. contests for all ages featuring LEGO building, art, and creativity challenges will take place online, with top vote-earning entries winning fabulous prizes like LEGO sets, art supplies and more! Visit www.readfest.org to enter the contests between Feb. 22 through March 14, and vote for your favorites from March 15 through March 31.
“The Southwest Florida Reading Festival has really tried to provide something for everyone this year,” Festival Coordinator Melissa Baker said. “As festival planning goes, this was a first for us to go all virtual, and with so many of the online features of the event being self-paced we hope that participants can enjoy the content whenever and wherever it is convenient for them.”
The Southwest Florida Reading Festival is free and community-supported through donations, sponsorships and grants. To help ensure the continuation of this free community event, visit www.ReadFest.org to make a secure online donation. More information is available at www.ReadFest.org or by calling 239-533-4832.