- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - It’s safe to say the annual Southwest Louisiana Family Book Festival has become a prominent event within the creative community of Lake Charles. Three years into its existence, the authors and guests who attended the inaugural event are now the festival’s champions, bringing with them each year new writers and visitors.

At the Central School Arts and Humanities Center on Saturday, the festival once again displayed the influence book’s can have on a community.

The festival featured more than 20 authors from Louisiana and Texas promoting books, which included science fiction, romance, mystery and children’s books. Many of the books were written by local authors.

Linda Hurst, festival director, spent the better part of the afternoon guiding visitors toward tables or to the rooms where special programs were taking place. One of the programs was a children’s interactive musical by Lynda Deniger, author of the children’s book “Salty Seas and Friends.”

“This not only promotes literacy, but it gives these writers a chance to network with one another,” she said. “This is great for the younger people as well because it promoted something positive. I see a future for the young people with this because if they read, they write. And if they write, they read.”

Rose Henney, event co-organizer, said turnout was high. She said the festival is at an age where faces are starting to become familiar at the event - which is part of the goal.

“All of this is for making a commitment to literacy. There are more authors retuning for this event, and there arereturning families as well,” she said. “There’s something for everybody here. Now this event is exactly what it’s called - a family book festival.”

One of the popular parts of the festival is a “Read to the Pony” booth were kids can select books and read them aloud to a miniature horse.

Ashley Navarre, Megan Norris and 8-year-old Fallon Navarre spent the afternoon at the event. The group was part of the many returning participants both Henney and Hurst talked about.

For 15 minutes during the festival, Fallon spent time sitting next to a mini-horse named Shiloha and read her a children’s book.

“We’ve been coming to this the last few years and it’s great,” Ashley said as she watched Fallon from a distance. “She loves books and you can tell she enjoys it.”

Megan said one of the perks for the kids is getting to meet the authors at the event. “They love being able to talk to them and have their books signed,” she said.

One of the most popular tables at the festival belonged to Gwendolyn Reasoner, author of the children’s book “Where Did the Day Go?” Reasoner, a Louisiana native, said watching the local community of writers grow over the years has been a positive experience. She said the talent had always been in the area, but that events like Saturday’s festival provide an outlet for the authors.

“These events can even motivate authors that are thinking about putting a book together. The idea is to not let a blank page or a blank computer screen intimidate you. Follow your passions,” she said. “For the young people that come, they see that they can truly be whatever they want to be. That’s what this event is all about.”

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Information from: American Press, https://www.americanpress.com

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