Center for Children’s Literature

BookFest @ Bank Street

BookFest logo

BookFest is an event devoted to the celebration, discovery, and discussion of books for children and teens. This event, designed for adults, features luminaries from the children’s literature community. Authors, illustrators, editors, reviewers, and scholars will take part in panel discussions and breakout sessions.

BookFest was founded in 1971, by Frances Henne, a faculty member of the School of Library Service at Columbia University. The event was originally known as Let’s Talk About Books for Children and Youth Day, or Velma Varner Day, in honor of Henne’s close friend and colleague, Velma Varner, editor of Viking Press. The event has been hosted by Columbia University, Teachers College, and the New York Public Library. Bank Street College of Education has been a proud producer of this wonderful event since 2010.

Virtual BookFest @ Bank Street, Saturday, November 4, 2023

Sonia Manzano
Photo credit: David Gonzalez, courtesy of Fred Rogers Productions

The Center for Children’s Literature is delighted to announce that it will team up with Kid Lit TV once again this year to stream BookFest 2023.  Sonia Manzano, who played Maria on the groundbreaking educational children’s program Sesame Street for 44 years, will present the keynote.

Sonia Manzano is a first-generation mainland Puerto Rican, raised in the South Bronx. In the early 1970’s a scholarship took her to Carnegie Mellon University where she participated in the creation of the Broadway show hit Godspell. From there she went on to affect the lives of millions of parents and children when she was offered the opportunity to create the role of “Maria” on Sesame Street.

After forty-four years on Sesame Street she decided to write books.  They  include No Dogs Allowed, A Box Full of Kittens, Miracle on 133rd St. (Simon and Schuster) The Lowdown on the Highbridge (BX Children’s Museum) Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (Scholastic). Her most recent Scholastic novel, Coming Up Cuban: Rising Past Castro’s Shadow, set in 1959, follows the lives of four children who represent different intersections of race and class during the Cuban Revolution.

Sonia has been recognized with 15 Emmy Awards for writing Sesame Street, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Arts and Sciences 2016.  She most recently received the 2022 Beacon Award from PBS.

Ms. Manzano has created and developed with Fred Rogers Productions an animated children’s program for PBS. Alma’s Way premiered in Oct 2021.

Register for BookFest 2023

Follow us on Twitter use #bookfest23 and tag us @BankStreetLib

News Coverage

Jones, I. (2023, November 7). Bank Street Book Fest 2023: Culture, Kindness, and Community. Publishers Weekly.


Virtual BookFest @ Bank Street in Collaboration with KidLit TV

A Celebration of Women Authors, Illustrators and Sisterhood!

9:20 AM – 9:30 AM (EST)
Chat Room
Sign in and say hello in chat.

9:30 AM – 9:35 AM (EST)
Welcome by Cynthia Weill, Director, Center for Children’s Literature, Bank Street College of Education

9:35 AM – 9:50 AM (EST)
Keynote Speaker

  • Sonia ManzanoComing Up Cuban: Rising Past Castro’s Shadow

9:50 AM – 10:25 AM (EST)
Tales From the Hearth

Sophie Blackall, Farmhouse; two-time Caldecott Medalist for Hello Lighthouse; Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
with: Jenny Brown, Senior Editor, Shelf Awareness

10:25 AM – 11:15 AM (EST)
The Power of Kindness

  • Meg Medina (Newbery Medal for Merci Suárez Changes Gears, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature)
  • R J Palacio, Wonder, White Bird

Moderator: Maria Russo, Editorial Director, Minerva, an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers

11:15 AM – 11:30 AM (EST)

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM (EST)
She Persisted: Empowering Stories about Real Women

  • Chelsea Clinton, author and creator of the She Persisted series
  • Traci Sorell, She Persisted: Wilma Mankiller
  • Kelly Starling Lyons, She Persisted: Dorothy Height
  • Kekla Magoon, She Persisted: Simone Biles

Moderator: Gillian Engberg, Children’s Book Consultant

12:30 PM – 12:35 PM (EST)
Closing Comments by Cynthia Weill, Director, Center for Children’s Literature, Bank Street College of Education

Note that the breakout sessions and our short program have been trimmed once again this year to offer a more online-friendly format.

Please note that BookFest registration payment is by credit card only.

Teachers, your institution may allow you to acquire professional development credits by attending BookFest. Upon request, registrants may obtain a certificate of participation. Contact Requests must be submitted by 12/1/23.