Literary Festival in Valdosta

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Fifth grader Frank Riley designs a poster board where he will glue his essay for a contest, one of more than 25 events at this year's Wiregrass Literary Festival.

"I can put words in ABC order and I can know what adverbs verbs and synonyms are," he says.

While Frank keeps up his reading and writing skills. Many people in south Georgia and north Florida don't. Festival officials say that in the Valdosta metropolitan area, one out of every three people 18 years and above are not functionally literate, meaning they can't read the local paper or fill out a job application.

"That's the reason why we're here. We want to change that," said co-chair Charlie Oliver.

The festival's goal is to bring educators to the area to show them teaching techniques from other areas of the country. Writers from across the United States will be on hand for author readings, conferences and workshops.

After all, "Literature teaches us very different things. Without literature we wouldn't know anything," said fifth grader Kayla Morrison.

Wiregrass officials say another goal is to promote reading to parents who read at a low level in addition to sparking the interest of children.