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USC announces dates for Festival of Books

Children at 32nd Street/USC MaST High School listen to a reading of Martin'€™s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

USC Civic Engagement announced this year’s Festival of Books dates of April 20-21 and launched the university’s third annual online book drive on Jan. 23 — coinciding with National Literacy Day — at 32nd Street/USC MaST High School, a member of the USC Family of Schools.

Jervey Tervalon, author of Understand This and an award-winning poet, screenwriter and dramatist who grew up in the neighborhood around the University Park Campus, read Doreen Rappaport’s Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr. to a classroom of enthusiastic second-graders.

He also told personal anecdotes about how his passion for reading helped him to get on a book-writing track.

One curious student asked: “You write books? How much do they cost?”

Tervalon gently redirected the student’s attention to the importance of reading.

“Read as much as possible,” he said. ”The most important thing about writing is a lot of reading.”

Tervalon also answered questions on favorite books.

“I’ve always loved books,” said Tervalon, who attended Foshay Learning Center in the early 1970s and currently teaches English for the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a pre-college enrichment program. “And if you like to read all of the time, it is like going to college already.”

He ended his visit by inviting the youngsters to the upcoming Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and its Civic Engagement tent, which will offer arts and crafts, book readings, arts, culture, food and music.

“Inspiring kids to be passionate readers is the most important thing that I can do,” Tervalon said.

“I’m really looking forward to the Civic Engagement tent this year, where many wonderful authors will be slated to read throughout the two days — it’s always great fun to be with the kids and my fellow writers for the Festival of Books,” he added.

“We’re starting the book drive earlier this year in an effort to get even more books to help our neighborhood children excel at reading,” said Craig Keys, associate senior vice president of Civic Engagement. “We also are getting the community more involved — teachers, parents and students — with contests and opportunities that promote reading and the celebration of imagination and its expression.”

Ezequiel Gonzalez, principal of 32nd Street School, said: “It’s an honor to have USC here to bring the message to our parents and kids that reading is important, and that is the work that we all must do to promote reading proficiency by the end of second grade.”

With 25,000 books donated by Piccolo Books, the online book drive got off to a rousing start. The challenge is to have the community match the donation to extend the donations beyond classrooms and provide students a set of books they can call their own.

“I want to do what I can to preserve the written word and help children discover the world of books,” said Piccolo Lewis, who owns the Los Angeles-based chain. “This donation is an easy way to get books to a set of schools that need them the most.”

Last year people from across Los Angeles donated 8,000 books used to stock the shelves of classroom libraries at the USC Family of Schools.

Civic Engagement and the USC Bookstores will set up a user-friendly online donation system and book drop-off stations on the University Park Campus, the Health Sciences Campus and the Los Angeles Times building.

For more information about the book drive, visit

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USC announces dates for Festival of Books

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