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Roseland, Pullman

Words Of Wonder Literary Festival Bringing ‘The Best’ Creatives To The South Side Saturday

National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and Caldecott Honor recipient E.B. Lewis will headline a day of free workshops, giveaways, live performances and more.

Left: Author Jacqueline Woodson, who along with illustrator and collaborator E.B. Lewis will headline the first Words of Wonder Literary Festival. Right: A child paints next to a copy of Woodson's 2003 book "Locomotion" at an event by festival organizer Burst Into Books.
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PULLMAN — Readers and creators of all ages can immerse themselves in books and other artistry at a free literacy festival this weekend on the Far South Side.

The first Words Of Wonder Literary Festival is 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at Gately Park, 10201 S. Cottage Grove Ave. Much of the festival will be held inside the park’s track and field facility, while some activities will be held outside.

The day will be packed with activities and resources from local organizations, including workshops, live storytelling, book giveaways, art tables, spoken word performances and a DJ set.

National Book Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E.B. Lewis will headline the event with a conversation and Q&A session at 2 p.m.

Lewis will also teach two free illustration workshops during the day, one for kids in first through fifth grades and another for youth in sixth through ninth grades.

Chicago Public Schools bought copies of Woodson’s newest book, “The World Belonged to Us,” to give away to attendees, said Jurema Gorham, founder of the festival’s host organization, Burst Into Books.

Registration is recommended but not required. To register for the festival, click here. To sign up for the writing, poetry and illustration workshops, click here.

The festival is for all ages, but organizers particularly want “kids to be excited” about what’s in store, Gorham said.

“A lot of times people feel youth are not interested in literature, which is not true,” she said. “We’re going to show [them] how all the things [they] love are embedded in literature.”

The day’s performers — including 2020 Chicago Youth Poet Laureate Nué, DJ Ca$h Era and the Jesse White Tumblers — are overwhelmingly South Siders who support youth in their work or are kids themselves, Gorham said.

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DJ Ca$h Era, who will perform sets at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Local teen author Jahkil Jackson, who was recognized for his activism by former President Barack Obama in 2017, will lead a writing workshop for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. Other local authors will sell their books in the festival’s “writers’ wing.”

South Side literacy advocates including the Seminary Co-Op Bookstores, Brown Books and Paintbrushes, Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club and others were crucial in bringing the festival together, Gorham said.

“We were very intentional about where we hosted it,” said Gorham, whose organization is based in Roseland. “Local artists, schools in the area, they’re all super excited. Usually for them to do festivals like this, they have to travel outside the neighborhood.”

That South Side collaboration was boosted by citywide partners like CPS, the Chicago Public Library and Young Chicago Authors, she said.

Vaccinations, vision screenings and other health and dental resources will also be available.

Gorham wants to establish Words of Wonder as an annual festival that builds as much anticipation as the Bud Billiken Parade. She plans to do that by bringing high-level creatives to the Far South Side year after year, she said.

“The people we’re putting in front of our kids are really good at what they do,” Gorham said. “When would you ever have a free illustration workshop with E.B. Lewis as a kid? … People pay tuition to get taught by him, but they can come [Saturday] for free.”

Gorham also wants to grow the festival into a two-day affair with more workshops, contests, open mics and activities that allow South Siders to escape their day-to-day realities and “see the world outside of themselves,” she said.

“I want them to not only have access to [books and workshops], but be taught by the best that do it,” Gorham said. “Through that, they’ll be able to be inspired to do it themselves.

“Maybe 10 years down the line, there’s a child that comes back and says, ‘I was in that workshop and it inspired me to be an author’ — and now, they’re selling their book at our festival.”

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