People of all ages come to the annual Miami Book Fair, where more than 300 renowned authors, exhibitors and performers will appear this weekend in downtown Miami.
Organized by Miami Dade College, the Book Fair’s primary purpose is to promote literacy and the arts in Miami’s melting pot community. And with 200,000 expected visitors Saturday and Sunday at the annual street fair, the event is carefully crafted to appeal to infants as well as young adults.
“We cater to anyone from elementary to middle to high school,” said Melissa Messulam, the Book Fair’s program coordinator. “The idea of our Children’s Alley is to get kids excited about literacy programs.”
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Walking through the crowded annual event, one will find scores of tents, each with its own theme. Every tent will feature a different activity, including hands-on exhibits, performing arts, and crafts, all of which are tied into a book that fits each particular theme.
One of the newest and most unique events this year will be The Rhythm Factory. With a focus on music, particularly indigenous instruments, The Rhythm Factory will allow children to gain insight into music outside the mainstream realm. Through interaction with foreign instruments and listening to demos — each tied to a particular book — the children will be able to sing-a-long, move and learn. The featured books include “I Love My Baby Berimbau: An Introduction to the Berimbau in Capoeira,” “Dundun: The Talking Drum of the Yoruba People of South-West Nigeria” and “The Soul of Mbira: Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe.”
With the fair’s emphasis on cultural inclusion and new focus on Caribbean literature, a “Read Caribbean” event will include about a dozen discussion panels centered on current events, politics, and literary traditions, as well as celebrate Caribbean literature.
Performances by the PATH (Preserving, Archiving & Teaching Hiphop) organization will use hip hop culture to advance scholarship, service-learning, leadership and entrepreneurship in under-served communities.
This year’s fair will use technology to spark creation and innovation as carried out through new “Tinker, Make, Innovate” tents. Technology will be emphasized this year more than in the past.
In partnership with the Maker Fair Miami Movement, this tent will be geared toward engaging children more on the technology side and how they can “use certain outlets to really spark innovation and creativity,” Messulam said.
Among the hands-on activities will be building and battling robots, making Lego bridges and exploring digital realms through virtual reality.
Infusing performing arts into the mix of attractions, the “Once Upon a Time Stage” will give children the opportunity to dance freely with music and storytelling. The exhibition will include Haitian storytellers; break-dancing groups, including Miami’s iconic Flipside Kings; magicians; and Grammy-award winning children’s performers The Okee Dokee Brothers.
“Even the very performance-based activities are always tied back to promoting literacy, which is the whole focus of Children’s Alley,” Messulam said. “One of the important things in programming this area was not only to provide adult performers for kids but also being able to give a stage for children themselves.”
Another new feature this year will be impromptu performances by Dr. Seuss characters, strolling magicians, stilt-walkers and Charlie Chaplin impersonators. Among the abundance of talent at this year’s Book Fair will be children seeking to inspire their own peers.
At the forefront of this children’s empowerment theme will be a “Kid-trepreneur” panel including inventive and passionate young minds. Taking place at 4 p.m. Sunday, the panel will talk with young entrepreneurs in a conversation about their activism and nonprofit work.
“If you don’t believe in the things that you want to do, you won’t do stuff to make it happen. If you do believe, you will do stuff to make it happen,” said Delphine Nephtalie Dauphin, the 10-year-old owner of Joy’s Yummy Cakes and author of “I Am a Kid-trepreneur.”
“It’s really powerful for a child to be able to go up to a stage and get to show other children their art. It’s also very powerful for a child in the audience to see another child up on the stage and think, ‘Wow, maybe I can do this as well,’ ” Messulam said.
If you go
▪ What: Miami Book Fair.
▪ Where: Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave. in downtown Miami.
▪ When: The Fair run through Sunday; the Street Fair on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
▪ Cost: Friday’s street fair is free. Saturday and Sunday $8 adults; $5 ages 13 to 18 and over age 62; 12 and under free. Also free for Miami Dade College students, faculty and staff with valid ID.
▪ For more information and schedule of events, visit www.miamibookfair.com.