Tackling illiteracy once again takes center stage at The University of Texas-Pan American during its annual Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA) March 18-24.
University leaders recognize that literacy is a fundamental component of life, and necessary for success in school, career and everyday skills. In response, UTPA created FESTIBA in 2006, seeking to increase interest in reading and to improve success rates in secondary and postsecondary education.
Over the years, FESTIBA has evolved into a regional event that brings together prominent scholars, educators and authors in their disciplines to UT Pan American to contribute their expertise. Intellectual inquiry and exchange are highly encouraged. With the goal of promoting cultural awareness, UTPA will also celebrate the arts and humanities by engaging the community through books, drama, lectures, poetry, art exhibits, and presentations in dance and music.
This year's theme is "Literacy: Inspiring Healthy Minds & Healthy Bodies."
Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, said the festival is an extraordinary event that will change the lives of young children in the Rio Grande Valley.
"We share the love of reading with children and their parents. The importance of literacy is really stressed during FESTIBA," Guerra said. "The statistics look really bad. It's something like 47 percent of the local population can't read a newspaper. This is a very serious issue and FESTIBA is addressing it to help our children."
Highlights of the week include a faculty art show, a Congressional Roundtable on Hispanic Literacy for librarians hosted by U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15), a mariachi competition, and a performance featuring internationally recognized music conductor, Alondra de la Parra.
"We have an academic conference. We also have the GEAR UP kids from the Valley come on campus and we will share incredible performances with them," Guerra said. "They'll get to see Olympic gold medal winner Brenda Lilla; Valley native Roberto Garza, an NFL player with the Chicago Bears; and award-winning RGV executive chef Jesse Castellon of the International Culinary Institute. It's just a wonderful event with a wide range of activities to share with our community."
FESTIBA 2013 will also feature several exhibits from leading artists in Mexico, as well as plays and a book festival for young readers. Several authors will actually venture out into the community and visit a half dozen schools to share and sign books with the children. Dr. Peter Dabrowski, professor of music and dance, said the weeklong event to support literacy is an exciting way to motivate, engage and educate the public.
"It's a lot of different activities catering to different audiences and they all promote literacy. We are celebrating as a community," Dabrowski said. "There is something for everyone at FESTIBA."
On March 22, the public is invited to attend the FESTIBA at Jardín del Arte Community Festival from 5-10 p.m. at the Edinburg City Hall Courtyard. The evening of cultural and educational exchange will feature a long list of family-friendly events including a variety of musical performances, children's activity tents, book distributions and displays, plays and art exhibits. Food and drinks will be available from vendors.
"It is very family oriented. We will promote healthy living and a healthy lifestyle," Guerra said. "There will be Zumba dancing, food vendors and a variety of artists. It will be a wonderful afternoon about fun with your family but most of all we will be stressing the importance of literacy and reading to your children."
The week's activities will end on March 23 with a 6:30 p.m. performance featuring winners of a public school mariachi competition at the UTPA Fieldhouse, followed by a concert at 7 p.m. with the Grammy-nominated Mariachi Sol de Mexico and the UTPA Symphony Orchestra, all led by FESTIBA's guest conductor de la Parra.
To see a complete day to day listing of FESTIBA activities, visit utpa.edu/festiba.