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'Reading Appalachia' brings stories of childhood to life

Submitted by Cameo Waters • Jul 2, 2018 at 4:30 PM

JONESBOROUGH - Want to take a walk through childhood? Well, there's still a little time left to explore a local exhibit designed to help you do just that.

The McKinney Center, in partnership with the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee & Southwest Virginia and Jonesborough’s Washington County Public Library, is hosting “Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature” through Saturday, July 7. The exhibit is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays, at the McKinney Center.

This groundbreaking exhibition of Appalachian children’s literature explores books published since the late 1800s. Organized by the Knox County Public Library and the East Tennessee Historical Society in Knoxville, Tennessee, and based on research by Jamie Osborn, manager of the Halls Branch, Reading Appalachia aims to show a more complete picture of the region’s literary heritage and how this literature tells the story of childhood in Appalachia.

Sporting life-size characters from some of the books, the exhibit is designed to create the sensation of walking through the pages of a storybook. Children can stand eye-to-eye with characters from “Journey Cake Ho,” “A Mountain Rose,” “When Otter Tricked the Rabbit,” “When I Was Young” and others. The exhibit includes hands-on activities that bring the subject to life for kids of all ages. Children are encouraged to try on masks of storybook characters and find themselves in a story. They are also invited to create their own story of childhood set in Appalachia.

Attendees can view original films and hear the voice of old time storyteller Ray Hicks along with some of their favorite authors and illustrators. Each panel includes an interpretation of the text from a child’s perspective.

An exhibit of Appalachian children's literature at this scale has never been produced; this exhibition is designed to travel to other libraries and locations in and around Appalachia.

“Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature” is made possible through the generous support of Clayton Homes, the Jane L. Pettway Foundation, Friends of the Knox County Public Library, and the University of Tennessee’s Center for Children and Young Adult Literature.

Perhaps more than any other region, Appalachia has captured the nation’s imagination. It is a land where the blue smoke of the mountains, the self-sufficiency of life in a holler, and the singsong of an enthralling storyteller come together in a near mythic culture. Few things capture our hearts and senses more vividly than children’s books. They ignite imagination and help bring structure and understanding to developing minds. Their stories linger and guide us into adulthood; they help define us.

Appalachia is a land about which stories are told. By examining seminal titles published over the decades since the late 1800s, we hope to show the fuller picture of our region's literary heritage, and how this literature tells the story of childhood in Appalachia.

The McKinney Center is located at 103 Franklin Avenue in Jonesborough. To learn more, call (423) 753-0562.

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