Saving the world, one book at a time

In this column, members of Georgia Humanities and their colleagues take turns discussing Georgia’s history and culture, and other topics that matter. Through different voices, we hear different stories.

This week guest contributor DIANE CAPRIOLA, co-owner of Little Shop of Stories, discusses children’s literature at the AJC Decatur Book Festival.

By Diane Capriola

I always like to say that children’s books will save the world.

Diane Capriola (Troy King)

Children’s books not only help young readers to feel heard and empowered by seeing themselves in a story; they also allow children to hear and empower others by understanding and considering another’s story. Children’s literature fosters empathy, awareness, and compassion in a compelling and thoughtful way and encourages a child’s curiosity in the larger world. It helps young readers move beyond their own experiences to an awareness of different lives, different problems, and different solutions.

Plus, children’s lit is just downright joyous. While it can make you immerse yourself in deep thought and consideration, it can also make you laugh out loud. Through my work with the AJC Decatur Book Festival and as co-owner of Little Shop of Stories, I have had the honor of seeing how children’s books forge connections and bonds between parents and children, students and teachers, and among children themselves.

At this weekend’s AJC Decatur Book Festival (DBF), the power of stories in a young reader’s life will be celebrated. From considering the struggles of the refugee child to stepping into stories and making them their own, from navigating the transition from childhood to adolescence to naming their superpowers, children will be invited to find their voice as well as the voices of others for three days that are certain to be both engaging and exhilarating.

And, of course, all of these ideas extend to Young Adult (YA) or Teen Lit. Teenagers bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood, and finding the books that speak to their myriad emotions, struggles, and triumphs is a challenge that Little Shop and DBF both take very seriously. Fortunately, since I professionally stepped into the world of books, this genre has grown exponentially in both its volume and reach. On this weekend’s DBF Teen Stage, authors and their books will represent the common threads of young adulthood in tales of teens figuring out who they are and how to find their place in their worlds. If YA literature is something new or unfamiliar to you, I invite you to pick up a book or join us at the Teen Stage to witness the magic of books that, by design, serve as guides on the road from adolescence to adulthood and help teens determine the kind of person they ultimately want to be.

From events for the very youngest pre-readers to blockbuster teen authors playing Truth or Dare to the many panels for grown-ups, I can’t think of a better way to spend the Labor Day weekend than exploring the Decatur Book Festival! Can you?

Here’s a favorite quote of mine by beloved author Katherine Paterson. It beautifully encompasses my passion for reading and young readers: “It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations – something that will help them make sense of the their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.”

I hope you can join us September 1-3 at the festival and in the shop. I believe children’s books will save the world, but not on their own. Someone has to read them first. So I guess that means the world will be saved by you, the readers.

I feel pretty good about that.

Ed. note: Georgia Humanities is sponsoring a Humanities Track at the AJC Decatur Book Festival. Stop by our booth (#509-512) for more information about humanities sessions.

Diane Capriola is co-owner of Little Shop of Stories, a bookstore for children and the grownups they become, located on the square in Decatur. She is also the Children’s and Teen Program Manager for the AJC Decatur Book Festival. This year, Diane was named an “Atlanta Woman Making a Mark” by Atlanta magazine. She lives in Decatur with her family and her two dogs, Jem and Scout Finch.

Kelly Caudle and Allison Hutton of Georgia Humanities provide editorial assistance for the “Jamil’s Georgia” columns.

Jamil Zainaldin is president of Georgia Humanities, a nonprofit organization working to ensure that humanities and culture remain an integral part of the lives of Georgians. The organization is a cultural leader in the state as well as a pioneer nationally in innovative history and humanities programs. The New Georgia Encyclopedia is a project of Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Office of the Governor, the University of Georgia Press, and the University System of Georgia/GALILEO. The first state encyclopedia to be conceived and designed exclusively for publication on the Internet, the NGE is an important and authoritative digital resource for all Georgians.

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