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‘Learning the Art of Reading’: Jackson Book Festival Fosters Growth Through Literature

JACKSON, Miss.—Growing up in Jackson in the 1970s, a young Meredith McGee frequently perused a shelf of books in her Pearl Street home that her parents and siblings all shared. She would often take a copy of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” from the shelf to admire the illustrations within, and she also became enamored with Richard Wright’s memoir, “Black Boy,” particularly his descriptions of walking down Capitol Street and other parts of Jackson.

For McGee, reading a story about life so close to her own home felt special.

McGee’s great-grandmother, Francis Brown Meredith, began her family’s tradition of being attached to the written word. Meredith, born in 1865, was the first person in McGee’s family to learn to read and write. Afterward, she became a teacher and made a priority of educating her family. Thanks to her efforts, McGee’s grandparents and parents became lifelong, avid readers, and both McGee and her siblings took up writing their own poetry as teenagers.

Today, McGee carries on her great-grandmother’s work of educating the next generation and introducing them to the world of literature. Since 2018, she has worked with the nonprofit organization Community Library Mississippi to host the annual Jackson Book Festival, which now takes place inside the Center Stage area at the Jackson Medical Mall (350 W. Woodrow Wilson Blvd., Jackson). This year’s festival is on Saturday, Feb. 11, from noon to 5 p.m.

The 2023 Jackson Book Festival will feature book sales and signings from at least a dozen authors and 20 vendors from across Mississippi, as well as live book talks, art and craft vendors, live entertainment, and more. The event, which the Mississippi Arts Commission and Mississippi Humanities Council helped fund this year, is free and open to the public.

As a child, Jackson Book Festival founder Meredith McGee would often read her family’s copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” and later developed a deep appreciation for Richard Wright’s “Black Boy,” as sections of the memoir are set in her home city of Jackson, Miss. These books contributed to her love of reading. Covers courtesy

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