I was at the very, very marvelous Nantucket Book Festival this past weekend, a really well-run and interesting event (in a beautiful place, on a perfect summer weekend). It was heart-warming to see people walking about town, pausing on street corners to talk, carrying their tote bags and piles of books, and crowding into rooms despite the gorgeous weather outside, in order to hear author's speak about their work.
To be truthful, I go to far more conferences than book festivals. At these conferences, I'm used to seeing people walking around in similar fashion, simultaneously glazed over from information overload and giddy with anticipation.
So what about having book festivals in school, separate from any fundraising efforts (as in NOT the book fair)? What if there was a nonfiction book festival that kicked off the school year as a catalyst for creating a culture of conversation about nonfiction with your school community? School librarians are a great starting point for such planning, with a core team of perhaps a teacher from every grade level. Perhaps there is a local author who can come and speak, or a writer for children or young adults who could Skype into the session. If it happened early in the year, teachers could work with students from the previous year (i.e. the ones you know very well) and have the students on panels talking about their writing. You could have different panels for different grade spans, but mix up the students on the panels to still have younger (emerging writers!) and older students (established writers!) mixing and mingling in some way.
It's pie-in-the-sky ideal, but isn't that the kind of culture we want to create in school? Where writing is serious and joyful all at the same time? An avocation? Something worth spending time inside for on a gorgeous summer day, because it's that awesome?