The importance of literacy in East Texas was the theme of the day at the fifth annual East Texas Book Fest, as 66 authors from across Texas gathered to promote reading.
Local group Smith County Area Libraries Together, or S.A.L.T., sponsored the festival. S.A.L.T. consists of six area libraries that combined to put the event together.
The event’s goal is to promote literacy in the community, Carrie Custer, co-chairwoman of the event, said.
Ms. Custer, who also is the director for the Lindale Library, said the festival aims to bring literacy to the forefront of the community by promoting Texas authors, showcasing their books and giving books to children.
“We want to spread the importance of literacy,” she said. “It’s important for everyday life, especially for early (childhood), that’s why we’re giving books to children. We’re getting books into their hands. It’s important for jobs and education.”
Jeanne Standley, co-chairwoman of the book fest and director of the University of Texas at Tyler Robert R. Muntz Library, added that literacy helps pave a road to a successful future, as the forefathers of this country illustrated.
“I had a grandfather that always said, ‘One thing they can’t take from you is education,’” she said. “This country was founded by self-made people who read. We have a strong history of libraries (in this nation).”
Ms. Standley also said now that society is heading toward technology that provides information faster and more efficiently, reading is even more crucial to everyday life.
“We can talk about living in the Information Age, and we have all this information, but if you can’t read it, if you can’t process it or work with it, you’re at a severe disadvantage.”
Scherel Carver, treasurer for the festival, added that literacy might even keep individuals out of jail, saying there is a low literacy rate in U.S. jails.
The event was put on with the help of the Literacy Council of Tyler, which works to promote literacy among children and adults.
Nancy Crawford, director of the LCOT, said the organization offers many programs to promote reading in the community.
The Tyler Literacy Council offers basic adult literacy courses, which provide tutoring for adults who need help with reading, writing and/or math, GED courses and English as a Second Language courses.
All of these courses are provided free of charge.
The festival also included speakers, including former Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith, who also is a published author.
Smith offered advice to authors and aspiring authors, and shared anecdotes from his long law enforcement career, which illustrated the importance of reading well.