This weekend, during the Texas Book Festival, we held an important ceremony on the steps of our building. We inaugurated the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. A crowd of about 100 adults and children listened to three authors-novelist Sarah Bird, children’s author and literacy advocate Pat Mora, and artist and author Carmen Lomas Garza–describe their work and the importance of reading, books and libraries. Those attendees also received an autographed copy of Ms. Garza’s modern classic children’s book, Family Pictures – Cuadros de Familia to take home.
We are very excited to take on the responsibility of running the Center and to have this platform to speak about the importance of building a culture around books, to encourage reading for all ages, and to stress to parents and educators the key role reading plays in the success of young people in school and later life.
The Center for the Book will be a new project for the Texas State Library, but it is not new to Texas. The Center for the Book is a project of the Library of Congress and all states have an affiliate program. Since 1987, the Texas affiliate of the Center for the Book has been located at the Dallas Public Library. DPL has done an outstanding job of maintaining the project for the last 28 years. But by mutual agreement, Dallas Public and we have agreed that the time has come to move the project to the TSLAC.
Why are we the appropriate agency for the project? For the past 180 years, our agency has been the official library of the state of Texas. More important, we have deep ties to the work of public, school and college and university libraries across the state and the millions of people of all ages that they serve every day. Our agency is a designated National Literary Landmark, one of only five in Texas and that is symbolic of our professional and philosophical commitment to encouraging a culture of books and reading in Texas.
And why is reading so important? We believe–and there is ample evidence to support the contention–that a culture based on books and reading not only supports individual growth and success, but also leads to greater civic engagement, builds strong public institutions, and supports workforce success and economic development. And for children, there is ample evidence that children who start school reading or ready to read will have higher rates of academic achievement and greater success in later life. And not to mention, reading is fun!
Our Center for the Book will support a variety of projects, starting with continuing the project Letters About Literature, a statewide reading and writing project for students in grades 4-12, and Lone Star Día, a statewide celebration of Children’s Day, Book Day – El Día de los Niños, El Día de los Libros, encouraging reading for children of all backgrounds. We are currently recruiting for a coordinator for this program and will be creating an advisory board so there will be other projects to be announced in the coming months.
We hope you will follow our work on this project, and keep on reading!