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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015
Out and about

Hernando Reading Festival brings books to life for youngsters

Hernando Today correspondent


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From Fancy Nancy inspired tea parties to a Dr. Seuss-themed parade, the Hernando Reading Festival on Saturday will bring books to life for children.

"The reading festival is a way to introduce youth to literacy, so that it is fun and engaging, and encourage them to read later for fun," said Sophia Watson, supervisor of adult and community education for the Hernando County School Board.

Comedian Banks Helfrich, also known as the "Jiggleman", starts the festivities at 11 a.m.

His comedy act has been a crowd pleaser for the kids in the past, said Watson.

Helfrich has appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman" with his comedy act using various sizes of inflatable balls.

The children are then invited to participate in a tea party inspired and based on the Fancy Nancy series of children's books by Jane O'Connor. The tea party starts at 11:15 a.m. and then happens hourly thereafter.

"Kids will be dressing up, learning about tea party etiquette, and reading excerpts from the Fancy Nancy series of books," said Watson.

The goal is to encourage the children to read the entire Fancy Nancy series of books once they find out much fun books can be from activities such as the tea party.

In honor of Dr. Seuss author Theodor Seuss Geisel's birthday in March, a Dr. Seuss birthday party and parade is also planned from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Members of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association will dress up like Dr. Seuss characters for the parade. Birthday cake will also be served.

"It is very cute," Watson said. "I love having that there."

At 1:15 p.m., Black Light Theater presents a puppet show, "Puppetry Pride", produced by Hernando County teacher, Ruth Markham.

"She does an amazing production using puppets and drawing in literacy," said Watson. "It's always a huge hit. The students are excited to fill that room."

Be sure to stop and meet "Tony the Balloon Guy" and local Hernando County children's authors, Cheryl Campbell, author of Darling the Curly Tailed Reindoe; Lynn S. Combes, author of A Garden Full of Butterflies; and My Bully and Me authors, Michelle Kohlas, and Danielle Viverito.

There will also be a "Book Walk" musical chairs games, where winners receive books as prizes.

"What I like most about being a children's book author is watching the children's faces as they listen to the stories," Campbell said. "It's great to hear back from parents and grandparents about how much the children enjoy the stories.

"It's important that children are read to beginning at birth and are encouraged to read as they grow," she said. "It is very important that they see their parents reading also. Reading sparks creativity, imagination and verbal skills. Reading broadens a child's world."

Over 1,000 participants are expected to attend the Hernando Reading Festival. The first 300 children will receive good bags filled with Project Weather activity books, bookmarks, and crayons, sponsored by Bright House Networks.

The festival, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Nature Coast Technical High School, 4057 California St., in Brooksville is free. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

For more information, contact (352) 797-7018.

Hernando Today correspondent Heather Francis can be reached at

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