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ENGLISH FESTIVAL Love for literature draws pupils to YSU

By David Skolnick

Thursday, April 21, 2005

About 3,000 from 165 schools will participate in the festival.
YOUNGSTOWN -- They come for the camaraderie and for the love of reading and writing.
About 3,000 kids from 165 middle and high schools are participating in Youngstown State University's 27th annual English Festival. The event began Wednesday and ends Friday.
"It's a great way to interact with other people," said Lis Evan, a Springfield High School sophomore, who's attending her second YSU English Festival. "You meet a lot of new people and learn new things. I'm a big reader, and this is a lot of fun."
For Audra Sheatz, this is her third YSU English Festival. The junior from Rocky Grove High School, near Franklin, Pa., said the event helps her get a better understanding of English.
"You work with other students, and you learn from each other," she said. "It helps me hone my English skills. It's a great program, and it's fun."
Mandatory reading
Participants must read seven books on the festival's booklist in order to attend. At the festival, pupils hear lectures from the authors; attend workshops on writing, poetry and journalism and compete in various contests.
This year's festival features Jacqueline Woodson, an award-winning author of picture books, middle school and young adult books.
There are 57 sessions each day, including workshops on journalism, prose and poetry, as well as impromptu writing contests and writing and language games.
"We have writing essay contests and group collaboration programs," said Gary Salvner, co-chairman of the festival and YSU English department chairman.
Attendance was starting to decline a few years ago, but it is up for the second year in a row, he said.
"It's word of mouth from kids who come and then tell others about the festival," Salvner said. "We're trying to convey that reading and writing matter. We're celebrating it in kids' lives. Literature has something to give to us all."
While those attending enjoy the experience, Salvner said, they are learning.
"It isn't a study day, but we make learning fun," he said.