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Children's book expo extols the virtues of paper books

The glitzy, electronic wizardry of tablets and iPads dims beside the feel of paper bound between a stiff cover, and the ways in which the words and illustrations contained in it can stoke young minds to engage imaginary worlds.

It is what compelled Kim Krug of Clarence and her mother, Kathleen Skroog, to assemble 36 children's book authors from around the U.S. and Canada on Sunday for the second annual Western New York Children's Book Expo at Kleinhans Music Hall. For over five hours, the authors performed and read from their best-selling works, autographed copies of their books and shared what had inspired them with more than 1,500 children and their parents.

Bringing them all together was a labor of love for Krug and Skroog, owners of the Monkey See, Monkey Do Children's Bookstore in Clarence.

"Skroog and Krug sounds just like a Dr. Seuss rhyme, doesn't it," said Krug, who opened the bookstore with her mother 8 1/2 years ago after leaving her job at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York to raise a family.

"I think reading is the foundation of children's development. It's so important for children to have books in their lives at a very early age," Krug said.

She said there are many ways to engage a child with books, particularly books that are interactive and encourage young readers to lift, press or fold three-dimensional objects from its pages to supplement the stories.

Of course, nothing beats a well-written tale that compels children to revisit a story again and again.

Author Charles R. Smith Jr. holds up a copy of his book "28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World" while telling young Joshua Bell, 4, of Buffalo, about baseball player Hank Aaron at the WNY Children's Book Expo at Kleinhans. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Author Charles R. Smith Jr. holds up a copy of his book "28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World" while telling young Joshua Bell, 4, of Buffalo, about baseball player Hank Aaron at the WNY Children's Book Expo at Kleinhans. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Eric Litwin, the New York Times best-selling author of "Pete the Cat" was the keynote speaker for the event. Litwin, who has sold more than eight million books, uses music, rhyme, repetition and pictures to bring his stories to life. At the Kleinhans event, he regaled the children and adults with an interactive, musical reading from his book, much to the amusement of  7-year-old Amarie McDuffie of Buffalo, who attended the expo with her younger sister, Abigaile, 3, and their parents, Darren and Atoya.

"He's funny," said Amarie, explaining to an uninitiated reader why she is enthralled with Litwin's creations.

"He's always doing something, like in one of his books, he made a giant sandwich and he couldn't eat it. He had to invite all of his friends. He even put ice cream on it, and fish and tomato," Amarie added.

Darren McDuffie said his daughter has a library of paper books at home, along with books that she reads on her iPad.

"We mainly stick with paper books. For some reason, she likes to have it in her hands and she likes the illustrations," he said.

Alicia Threat of Cheektowaga attended the event with her three daughters, ages 3 to 8, along with Girl Scout Troop 3059 of Buffalo. She said reading to her daughters every night cuts down on their TV watching and engagement with video games

"Reading is important and I want to instill that in my girls. It is important and it always will be to pick up a book and read. I read to them every night after I shut the TV off after they've showered," said Threat.

"I'm not going to lie. I do have a Nook and I do have a tablet and I do have books on there, as well. Still, it's important for them to see an actual book, to feel the book and turn the pages. You don't have to charge a book like a tablet, and there's not the screen glare. It's just there to engage and read by candlelight, if necessary," she added.

Sisters Rosalie and Hazel Htun, ages 4 and 2, pose for a photo with author Salina Yoon of San Diego and the penguin character from her book at the WNY Children's Book Expo at Kleinhans on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Sisters Rosalie and Hazel Htun, ages 4 and 2, pose for a photo with author Salina Yoon of San Diego and the penguin character from her book at the WNY Children's Book Expo at Kleinhans on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Sunday's event featured 13 different presentations, including The Buffalo News Storytime corner in the lobby at Kleinhans, where children's book author Shannon Gilligan read from her best-seller, "Ghost Island." Nine authors presented readings of their works on the Mary Seaton main stage at the music hall.

Litwin had a line of over 300 children and adults queued up to get signed copies of his books following his presentation on the main stage.

Chris Moore of Grand Island and his 5-year-old daughter, Kylie, waited on line at the checkout before exiting the expo.

"My wife is an educator. So in our household, reading is very important. The keynote speaker, Eric Litwin, wrote Kylie's first book, an author which she has read since when she was in pre-K. So she was encouraged and excited about reading from the get-go, starting with him. So he was a draw for us to come out, and meeting the other authors was also nice. She's now reading on a higher level and she's excited to keep growing in her skills," Moore said.

Moore said he, too, reads to his daughter every night.

In addition to the activities for the children and their parents, there also was something for a group of about 90 local teachers: a seminar by some of the authors present, which also received approval from the state Department of Education, said Krug.

"This is the first year we've introduced this," she said, noting that each of the participating teachers would receive a certificate at the end of the presentation.

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