FARMVILLE, Va. (WRIC) – Ten thousand children from across the Virginia hopped off buses at Longwood University at the end of last week for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival.

The free festival is back after two years of being virtual because of the pandemic.

The festival wants to help children in rural areas like Nottoway County that may not have a bookstore, public transportation or enough library funding.

Executive director Juanita Giles created what she calls “the best field trip ever,” hoping to answer one question.

“How can we stand in the gap for these kids?” she said.

Emeric Warfel has been to Virginia Children’s Book Festival more than once with his family. His favorite part?

“The fact that I get to talk to the authors,” he smiled.

The festival brings in authors from all over the country to meet the kids, like graphic novelist Jay Cooper. He illustrated one of Warfel’s favorite series, called “Bots.”

“It’s candy. If they read a book that’s fun, they’ll read another book that’s fun,” Cooper said. “This is the one event of the year that I would crawl over hot coals to be at because Juanita and the entire team that works on this festival are doing such true good work.”

It’s good work that Giles said doesn’t just help rural kids. By the festival’s third year, 33% of kids attending were there from Richmond city.

“I always thought that kids who had museums and libraries and public transportation wouldn’t need us,” Giles sadi. “But that’s not the case at all.”

Virginia Children’s Book Festival gives away 60,000 books a year, but Giles said it’s the most rewarding when the kids leave not just wanting to read more, but to write. To support kids’ passion for the written word, Giles does more than just one single event during the year.

“We have book baskets all over the region that we refill,” Giles said. “We can foster children in Richmond, new books on their birthday. We put libraries in juvenile detention centers.”

As the festival heads into its tenth year next year, Giles wants to keep it as exuberant as the outfits she wears, hoping to put a book in every child’s hand.

“I feel like you go around one time. So you might as well have fun when you’re doing it. That’s how I feel,” she said.

Click here to learn more about what the VCBF does and how to volunteer or donate.