The South Carolina State Library’s Center for the Book has selected Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parrish (HarperCollins Publishers), to represent South Carolina at the 2015 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. The book is the state’s selection for the National Book Festival’s Discover Great Places Through Reading map. Each state selects one title of fiction or non-fiction, a book about the state or by an author from the state that is a good read for children or young adults. The map is distributed at the Pavilion of the States at the Festival and lists Great Reads About Great Places.
The late Peggy Parish, well known for her stories about Amelia Bedelia, wrote many popular books for children, including Dinosaur Time, illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Peggy Parish knew what children like to read. After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in English, she taught school in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and for more than fifteen years at the well-known, progressive Dalton School in New York City. It was at Dalton that she began to find ways to release her creative ideas and energy. Though she never took a writing course, “writing stories for children came naturally.” Her first book, published in 1961, was followed with Let’s Be Indians and, in 1963, her unforgettable Amelia Bedelia.
Always involved with education in some way, Peggy Parish did television pieces on preschool education and children’s books, wrote children’s-book review columns, and led numerous in-service training workshops for teachers. In discussing her ideas about education she said, “Children’s rights are taken away from them when they enter school. What I try to show teachers is that all the skills needed to read can be taught outside of textbooks. Today’s children are not going to read what they are not interested in. And if a positive attitude toward reading is not developed during the first three years of school, it is virtually impossible to develop it later.”
After living in New York for many years, Peggy Parish returned to her native South Carolina. She died in November 1988. In 1995, Peggy Parish’s nephew Herman Parish brought Amelia Bedelia back into the world with a new adventure, Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia, and he has continued to charm readers with her mishaps ever since. Last year, Amelia Bedelia celebrated its 50th anniversary and the Harvin Clarendon County Library in Manning, South Carolina, celebrated this milestone with a visit from Herman Parish and conducted a number of library programs. A statue of Amelia Bedelia was commissioned and placed on the library grounds in Peggy Parish's honor in 1999 and library visitors continue to enjoy seeing the statue and have their picture taken with this favorite character.
Peggy Parish didn’t want to be an author. In fact, writing was the last thing on her mind. But as a teacher in New York City she found herself creating stories for her students. Eventually, she even got a few published. But it wasn’t until 1963 that Amelia Bedelia was born, and for Ms. Parish the rest is history. During her lifetime she wrote nearly a dozen Amelia Bedelia books.
The National Book Festival will be held in Washington DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday September 5, 2015. This year's festival will feature authors, poets and illustrators in several pavilions. Festival-goers can meet and hear firsthand from their favorite poets and authors, get books signed, hear special entertainment, have photos taken with storybook characters and participate in a variety of activities. The Pavilion of the States will represent reading and library programs and literary events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. trusts and territories. Children attending the festival are given maps to take to each state’s table to have that state stamped to receive a prize. For more information, please visit loc.gov/bookfest.
The South Carolina Center for the Book is the South Carolina Affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book and is a cooperative project of the South Carolina State Library, the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science, and The Humanities CouncilSC. The Center is located at 1500 Senate Street, Columbia. For more information, please visit readsc.org.