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Orange County Children’s Book Festival returns to Costa Mesa’s OCC on Sunday

Young readers share an impromptu story time at the Orange County Children's Book Festival, which comes to Costa Mesa Sunday.
Young readers share an impromptu story time at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival, which comes to Costa Mesa Sunday.
(Lizzie Moo)

For young readers fond of losing themselves in a good story, Costa Mesa’s Orange Coast College will be a sure bet this Sunday, as the Orange County Book Festival offers a day of fun with a literary focus.

Now in its 19th year, the free event aims to connect families and educators with local and national authors, illustrators and storytellers, while providing a fun day of entertainment, performances and learning.

Costa Mesa resident Pat Burns co-founded the free event to bring the magic of books alive for the county’s youngest readers. From its earliest days, she says, an amazing pool of talent and resources have coalesced around the festival’s mission of inspiring the joy of reading at an early age.

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, left, speaks during the 2019 Orange County Children's Book Festival.
Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, left, speaks during the 2019 Orange County Children’s Book Festival, an event that returns to Orange Coast College Sunday.
(Michelle Burns)

“When the universe is in line, the doors just open,” says Burns, a marketing expert who describes herself a natural connector and an “advancer” of ideas. “That’s pretty much what the festival has been about since. From the get go, everybody says yes.”

The list of celebrity authors and illustrators who’ve said yes in years past has included actress Jamie Lee Curtis, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and local sports legend Kobe Bryant. Some have books they’re hoping to promote, while others simply admire the event’s esprit de cour.

“We’re about shaping children’s futures,” Burns said. “The early love of learning is key.”

Sunday’s event will feature a diverse roster of speakers and live demonstrations on six main stages — including a Storyteller Stage for readers-in-training, a S.T.E.A.M. Ahead Stage with science-themed talks and activities and a World Stories & Adventures Stage with bilingual books that incorporate Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean languages.

Star Wars stormtroopers confront attendees at the Orange County Children's Book Festival, which returns to OCC Sunday.
Star Wars stormtroopers confront attendees at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival, which returns to OCC Sunday.
(Dan Hopkinson)

The Entertainment Stage will include an appearance from actor Justin Baldoni, from the TV show “Jane the Virgin,” fashion talk from designers Kheris Rogers and Orange County’s own Paul Frank along with live musical performances.

Participants can also visit OCC’s Planetarium, where scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will deliver presentations related to astronomy, oceanography and earth science.

But for all the entertaining aspects of this year’s lineup, books and reading are the true stars, says Burns.

Pat Burns, Orange County Children's Book Festival co-founder, in 2020.
Pat Burns, Orange County Children’s Book Festival co-founder, in 2020.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Discovering the love of literacy at an early age wasn’t exactly in the cards for Burns herself, who grew up the oldest of five children in a military family and spent too much time caring for younger siblings to read books or be read to. Now, she wants to give that head start to future generations.

“No matter your socioeconomic status or race, if you pick up a book and start reading young, it will make your path to success a straight line,” she reasoned. “If we can inspire a love of books and reading, it makes an impact forever.”

The Orange County Children’s Book Festival takes place Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, in Costa Mesa. Admission is free. For more, visit kidsbookfestival.com.

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