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1997 Rochester Children's Book Festival Poster

First Rochester Children's Book Festival - 1997

RCBF Themes

  • 2023: Discover the Magic of Reading

  • 2022: Adventure Into the World of Books!

  • 2021: Kids' Books ROC!

  • 2020: Canceled due to COVID

  • 2019: Sharing Books, Sharing Dreams

  • 2018: #Read365: Every day is a great day to read

  • 2017:

  • 2016: Books Change Readers; Readers Change the World!

  • 2015:

  • 2014: Get Caught Reading!

  • 2013: Get Caught Reading!

  • 2012: Reading! It’s a Family Thing


Vivian Vande Velde created the Rochester Children’s Book Festival in 1997 when she had the idea that she wanted to celebrate the extraordinary number of children's writers in the Rochester area, to promote literacy, and to help Monroe County libraries. The first Festival was held to benefit the Friends of the Greece Public Library and took place at the Greece Baptist Church on Long Pond Road.


From the beginning, the goal was to have a day where children could meet and chat with authors, that there would be a program of storytelling, readings, and demonstrations throughout the day, and that books would be offered for sale--but there would be no admission fee to the event or to the presentations. That basic idea has remained the same over the years. 


Throughout the years, the Festival has grown in many ways:


  • In 1997, the RCBF had 30 authors and/or illustrators; in 2016 there were 50.  Throughout the years, there have been 100 different authors and illustrators participating, some for only a year or two, but many on a continuing basis.


  • The first year, there were presentations going on throughout the day, but only one at a time; now there are breakout sessions in three different locations, running simultaneously and serving a variety of ages and interests--as well as book-related craft activities all day long.


  • For the first seven years, the festival moved from library to library and once was hosted by Strong Museum. In 2004, Jim Coffey (founder of 292-Baby and faculty member of Monroe Community College) secured MCC as a hosting sponsor, providing a large, free space for the Festival to grow. MCC has continued its hosting sponsorship ever since, and the RCBF can’t thank them enough. 


  • With a permanent home, we also gained a permanent volunteer base as the group Rochester Area Children's Writers and Illustrators (RACWI) replaced the different Friends organizations. There are at least 100 volunteers helping on the day of the Festival, to answer people's questions, to help them find what they're looking for, and to keep things running smoothly.


  • Lift Bridge Book Shop has provided the books for sale at the RCBF.


  • The RCBF has had several leaders:

    • Vivian Vande Velde directed the Festival for the first 5 years (1997-2001). 

    • Joan Baier took over for year 6 (2002).

    • Carol Johmann was the leader for years 7 - 12 (2003 - 2008). 

    • Sibby Falk and Kathy Blasi ran the Festival from 2009-2016. Under their leadership, the RCBF received the following recognitions:

      • 2011 Big Pencil Award from Writers & Books, recognizing the RCBF as “…an organization that has made significant contributions to the Rochester literary community.”

      • Also in 2011, the RCBF headlined as a “Gold Standard in Children’s Book Festivals” on the Publishers’ Weekly blog in an article, written by Elizabeth Bluemle.

      • In 2015, Kathy Blasi and Sibby Falk were presented with NYSRA’s Literacy Advocate Award for, “advocating literacy above and beyond their positions; demonstrating leadership and superiority through the nature of their work; and contributing work that has breadth, depth, and far-reaching influence.”

    • Barbara Underhill and Vicki Schultz took over as co-directors in 2017, continuing the RCBF’s legacy of excellence. They were forced to cancel the 2020 book fest due to COVID and came back in 2021 with a virtual festival called Kids' Books ROC! In 2022, they brought on Jim Chaize as a third co-director to help with the challenge of changing venues to Rochester Institute of Technology, since MCC was still not approving events due to COVID.

    • Jim Chaize and Ronny Frishman started as co-directors together in 2023, bringing the 26th Annual RCBF back to its long-time home before COVID: MCC! They recruited an impressive group of 53 authors & illustrators for this wonderful event.



The Rochester Children’s Book Festival has become an event that families, authors, and illustrators look forward to year after year. Children enjoy meeting the talented authors and illustrators who bring their favorite characters to life, and those same authors and illustrators enjoy seeing how their work has brought joy to the lives of children. 



FESTIVAL-TO-GO (Our Outreach Program)


Carol Johmann was the person who came up with the idea of Festival-To-Go in year 8 (2004) to benefit schools of the Rochester City School District. Vivian Vande Velde took over coordinating these visits in 2010. Volunteers from Rochester Area Children's Writers and Illustrators (RACWI) visit 1 - 4 schools each year in October to try to get students excited about reading, writing, and sharing their own stories. Altrusa of Rochester volunteers help presenters around the schools the days of the visits AND provide some money to buy presenters' books for the schools' libraries. In addition, the FtG has received grants from several local foundations as well as the UPS Store's Toys for Tots Literacy Program, which have allowed us to donated a book to each child in over twenty city schools. 





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