Book Festival offers glimpse into culture


November event showcases Latino culture, promotes literacy

Photo courtesy Latino Book and Family Festival: Festival co-producer Edward James Olmos watches children play chess at an earlier festival.

Reading is key to learning for children of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. The Latino Book and Family Festival this month will promote literacy for Hispanic children and offer non-Hispanics a chance to learn about Hispanic culture.

"[For] a non-Latino that would like to learn more about our countries, our community, to buy or taste the meals or see the artifacts or the art that will be displayed there," says Zeke Montes, the host of the Chicago festival, the festival "is totally something very different."

National and local authors will speak at the festival, scheduled for Nov. 22-23 at Sportsman's Park, 3501 S. Laramie, Cicero. Montes says he expects as many as 20,000 people to attend-up slightly from last year.

"It's very children oriented," Montes says. "The idea is that we motivate our kids to think about our culture, to think about reading and to meet some authors."

Attendees will be able to chose a variety of activities during their visit, from seminars to book readings to cultural experiences through music, food or dance. The expo center will offer six themed areas-books, careers, education and technology, children, culture and travel, health, and Mi Casita-known as villages. Each village will provide a variety of activities and information. For example, Mi Casita will have booths providing information about mortgages and buying homes. The education village will offer information on colleges to expose Hispanics to the importance of post-secondary education. Last year, the health village provided free health screenings and flu shots.

"This is also a way to hold up a different type of role model. ... It shows that that's another avenue of growth for kids," says festival director Jim Sullivan.

The festival is free to participants because exhibitors and sponsors pay. "Sponsors saw the value of what we were doing from the start," says Sullivan. "Literacy is a very important thing going on in all of corporate America."

Since the Latino Literacy Hall of Fame, the sponsoring organization, is non-profit, any money raised from the festival is used for scholarships or to create literacy programs, Montes says. The Hispanic Association of Publications releases a scholarship book that is available at the festival. "It has all types of leads for scholarships," says Rose Montes, a coordinator of the Chicago event. "What we are trying to do is have scholarships for children to further their education."

For more information about the festival, visit

Ashley Ernst

Kids Eat Chicago

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