For the first time since its inception, the San Antonio Book Festival (SABF) will learn in quantifiable terms its impact on students and educators in Bexar County.
Educational outreach has always been one of the main goals of the Festival. In its six-year history, SABF’s outreach has included author visits to schools, a fiction contest for 7th-12thgraders (now retired), the opportunity to be a student introducer at the Festival, partnerships with local nonprofits and schools to bring students to the Festival as part of an organized group, and book giveaways for young readers.
Now, Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s (A&M-SA) College of Education and Human Development will study these aspects of the Festival. SABF’s new Educational Outreach Coordinator, Edith Esparza-Young, undertook this as her first priority upon starting the job. She knew SABF had only anecdotal data from its educational outreach programs and immediately saw the opportunity for a collaboration with A&M-SA.
“I am excited to see Dr. Lawrence Scott, Dr. Vivien Geneser, and Dr. Shelley Harris at the helm of this important research study,” Esparza-Young said. “Each faculty member is an expert in his/her respective field and has published extensively. They will be able to document and highlight the impact of SABF on schools, students, and teachers.”
In past years, A&M-SA has collaborated with SABF to recruit educators and students of all ages to help make the Festival special by appointing students to serve as introducers for all children’s middle grade, and young adult authors at the Festival. The partnership between SABF and A&M-SA began during the first Festival with a Memorandum of Understanding that outlined ways in which the organizations could get students and educators to the festival.
The 7th annual SABF marks a new era of collaboration with A&M-SA as both organizations are interested in learning the Festival’s impact on young readers, particularly those from traditionally underrepresented and minoritized groups. The A&M-SA study will specifically focus on author visits to schools where the author reflects the underrepresented student population.
“We all understand that education is the great equalizer,” Dr. Scott said. “We also want students of all demographics to see, hear from, and collaborate with archetypes of success that look like them.”
This is not the first study that has shown SABF’s influence on the city of San Antonio. Beginning in 2016, a marketing professor at Trinity University, Dr. Mario Gonzalez, conducted economic impact studies that showed the Festival, over a two-day period, generated nearly $1.5 million for the city’s economy.
“The economic impact study was such an incredibly valuable tool for us,” said Katy Flato, SABF’s Executive Director. “For years we have witnessed first-hand the smiles on kids’ faces as they listened to an author or enjoyed the free performance by Magik Theatre. We had librarians report that students were so excited to read their free books—some had never shown interest in reading before they experienced the Book Festival. It’s truly significant that we will now have measurable data of our educational impact.”