A "Reading Revolution" awaits the Rio Grande Valley community March 22-27 when they attend this year's FESTIBA (Festival of International Books and Arts) now in it fifth year at The University of Texas-Pan American.
A celebration of the arts, humanities and the culture of the Valley, the festival has also become a showcase for activities to promote literacy and a love of reading, particularly by children. The 2010 FESTIBA schedule was announced at a press conference March 11 at the Dustin Michael Sekula Library in Edinburg.
"Through FESTIBA, we are trying to get the message out that it is very important to read. Reading impacts your life in so many different ways and its proven that the literacy level will even impact the economy of a region, so it is very serious issue," she said.
Throughout FESTIBA week, six nationally acclaimed children's authors will visit local elementary schools to distribute books and curriculum guides as part of the Texas Book Festival's "Reading Rock Stars" program. Also, a new component called "FESTIBA Hot Spots" will encourage teachers to bring their students to UTPA and engage them in hands-on activities that are geared toward fostering students' love for reading. Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the nation's oldest and most prominent nonprofit literacy organization, will again distribute free books among a number of Valley schools.
Carol Hampton Rasco, RIF president and CEO, said RIF has been working with the South Texas Literacy Coalition, established last year by U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15), to put more books into the hands of South Texas students and to make reading a more common and fun-filled family activity.
"Anytime we do a book distribution, we do what we call motivational fun activities with it because we at RIF are not about the teaching of reading per say, we're there to get the children motivated to be excited about reading, to want to learn to read and to keep plugging to learn to read," Rasco said.
FESTIBA will also incorporate activities to promote literacy made possible by a Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the Big Read grant, UTPA has partnered with local libraries to focus on the reading and discussion of this year's Big Read book Sun, Stone and Shadows, a collection of short stories from Mexico.
Another first for 2010 FESTIBA is Educator Day, which will officially kick off FESTIBA on Monday, March 22. The day will include a Congressional Roundtable on Hispanic literacy in which panelists, including several members of Congress, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, and authors and representatives of literacy programs will address issues on literacy to more than a 1,000 educators and librarians. Educator Day guests will also participate in breakout sessions where they will hear from authors, illustrators and RIF representatives.
On Tuesday, March 23, the community will have an opportunity to sit in on presentations by renowned Mexican authors including Sun, Stone and Shadows' distinguished editor Jorge Hernandez of Mexico City. Other sessions sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will focus on the impact of the Mexican Revolution on Mexican and Latin American art and other issues. In the evening, award-winning and critically acclaimed poet and essayist Luis Alberto Urrea, who has 11 published books, will address the public as part of UTPA's Distinguished Speakers Series.
"FESTIBA is an event that brings authors, scholars and musicians from all over the United States to South Texas, to our campus and to the community. It's also an opportunity for us to showcase our own faculty and students, and just establish UTPA as the cultural center of all the Valley," Guerra said.
FESTIBA will conclude Saturday, March 27, with the Community Festival scheduled from 4-9 p.m. on the UTPA campus. A festival highlight will be a special appearance by actress Eva Longoria Parker, who plays the role of Gabrielle Solis on ABC's popular series, "Desperate Housewives." Longoria Parker grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from Texas A&M- Kingsville with a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology. She will address spectators at 7 p.m. on the main stage in the UTPA Fieldhouse Parking Lot F.
"She (Longoria Parker) is going to bring an element to FEBTIBA that we've never had. She is an amazing role model for our students, so they can see the sky is the limit," Guerra said.
The fun-filled, art-infused day will also include performances by local singers and dancers as well as by the world famous Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Mexican-American Latin Grammy-nominated group Alacranes Musical. Overseeing the main stage will be Valley native, now TV actress and hostess, Arlene Santana, from La Joya, who recently appeared on "Grey's Anatomy."
Kids will be delighted to visit the Follett Corporation's Book Fair where they will be able to meet some of the country's most popular storybook characters and enjoy storytelling, poetry readings and art and puppet shows designed for the entire family.
Visitors will also be able to enter the real world of bats at "The Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats," a touring exhibition produced by Evergreen Exhibitions, now on display at the UTPA Visitors Center. The free exhibit, which includes many hands-on, interactive displays, is designed for all ages and brings the mystery surrounding bats out of the dark.
For more information on FESTIBA or a daily schedule of events, visit www.utpa.edu/festibaor call 956/381-3361.