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Children's Literature Festival | University News

UCM Celebrates the 55th Annual Children’s Literature Festival

By Maya Kucij, February 23, 2024


Children from many area elementary schools listen to author and lllustrator talks in the James C. Kirkpatrick Library during the 2023 Children's Literature Festival.

WARRENSBURG, MO – The University of Central Missouri will celebrate the 55th Annual Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) March 3-5, with 24 nationally recognized authors and illustrators in attendance.

The festival begins with a luncheon with visiting authors and illustrators at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 3 in the Elliott Student Union. This year’s Gilbert-Sadler Speaker is award-winning author, Padma Venkatraman. Padma Venkatraman is an oceanographer and the award-winning author of numerous books for young people including “The Bridge Home,” “Born Behind Bars,” “A Time to Dance,” “Island’s End” and “Climbing the Stairs.” Luncheon tickets must be purchased in advance. They are $30 for adults, $17 for kids.

The following two days of festivities will include authors and illustrators presenting at various locations across campus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. These talks will be directed towards children in grades 3-10. Book Sales will also be available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Elliott Student Union ballroom during both days.
New this year, attendees will be able to select the presenters and their desired session time slots themselves. To register for the festival, there is a $5 fee for students and a $10 fee for adults. Registration is still open.

To stay up-to-date visit the website at and contact festival director, Maya Kucij, at or 660-543-4306, with any questions.
The 2024 Children’s Literature Festival received a grant from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

The Children’s Literature Festival has a long history at UCM, bringing school children to campus in grades 3-10 to hear and meet nationally recognized children’s authors and illustrators. The Festival is the longest children’s literature festival in the United States and dates back to 1969 when Philip Sadler, professor of Children’s Literature, and Ophelia Gilbert, laboratory school librarian, invited five Missouri authors to campus. Children from Central Elementary School (Campus Laboratory School) listened to them speak about their experiences as authors and got their books autographed. The next year, 13 authors came and were recognized, and year by year the festival has grown, both in number of presenters, and attendance of school children and their teachers.

This year, the CLF welcomes three local Kansas City authors: Angela Cervantes, Adib Khorram, and Niki Lenz. Angela Cervantes is the award-winning author of several children's novels including “Lety Out Loud” (a Pura Belpre Honor Award winner). Her short stories have been featured in “Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul” and the YA anthology, “Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America.”

Adib Khorram is the author of "Darius the Great is Not Okay,” which earned the William C. Morris Debut Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor among other accolades. His follow up book, “Darius the Great Deserves Better,” became an instant Indie Bestseller and received a Stonewall Honor.

Niki Lenz is the author of “Bernice Buttman Model Citizen” and “The Stepmom Shake-Up!” She is also a fourth grade teacher and loves to introduce kids to books they've never read before.

A number of educators and other individuals who attended the 2023 festival described their experience in a survey that was conducted after the event.  
One attendee remarked, “It’s such a phenomenal event. It changes lives…inspires kids to go after their dreams and do their best! Keep doing this!”

An educator commented, “Thank you for providing such an amazing opportunity for our students! I always love attending and I know the students I take come away with an appreciation for other cultures, new literature, and excitement for reading and the star-struck knowledge that they met an author!”

Considering the lineup of guest speakers and other opportunities at the festival, individuals who are planning this year's event are excited to hear back from participants while also stimulating young readers' interest in literature by introducing them to the authors and illustrators who create the books they love to read. 

The festival welcomes participants with disabilities. To learn more visit or call 660-543-4306.



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