YSU English Festival celebrates 40th anniversary this week

The Youngstown State University English Festival marks its 40th anniversary this week as middle and high school students from throughout the region converge on campus for the annual celebration of reading and writing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, April 18, 19 and 20.

In four decades, more than 100,000 junior and senior high school students from more than 300 school districts in at least eight states have read an estimated 750,000 books, written thousands of essays and have had the chance to meet dozens of the nation’s most prominent and successful authors of young adult literature as part of the three-day event that is one of the largest on the YSU campus every year.

Along the way, the English Festival has earned its share of national recognition, including the Intellectual Freedom Award from the National Council of Teachers of English. It has been the topic of scholarly articles and presentations at state and national conferences. And, maybe the biggest honor of all, the Festival’s concept has been replicated from Georgia to Guam.

“We always wanted this to be a celebration of reading and writing,” said Gary Salvner, who, along with fellow English department faculty James Houck, Janet Knapp and Thomas and Carol Gay, created the Festival. “It’s a euphemism, I know, but we wanted to encourage and reward reading and writing among young people. And I think we have been pretty successful at doing just that.”

This year, the Festival in Kilcawley Center on campus features three authors - Kekla Magoon, Chris Crutcher and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Kekla Magoon

Magoon is the author of nine novels and the recipient of an NAACP Image Award, the John Steptoe New Talent Award, two Coretta Scott King Honors, the Walter Award Honor, the “In the Margins” Award. She has been long listed for the National Book Award and also writes non-fiction on historical topics. 

Chris Crutcher

Crutcher, a native of Idaho and a former teacher and therapist specializing in child abuse and neglect, has received a number of coveted awards, including the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award and two Intellectual Freedom awards, one from the National Council for Teachers of English and the other from the National Coalition Against Censorship.  Five of Crutcher’s books appeared on an American Library Association list of the 100 Best Books for Teens of the 20th Century.

Laurie Halse Anderson

Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have sold more than 8 million copies. She has been twice nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Two of her books were National Book Award finalists, and one was short-listed for the prestigious Carnegie medal. She was selected by the American Library Association for the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award and has been honored for her battles for intellectual freedom by the National Coalition Against Censorship and the National Council of Teachers of English.