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Want to know more about our festival? Look no further!

What is BookFest?

BookFest is a wonderful, fun-filled day for children and adults alike. Renowned authors and illustrators come from across Canada to present their work, tell stories about their creations and lives, and inspire youth through literature and art.

In the week leading up to the festival many of the authors and illustrators present in elementary schools throughout the surrounding school districts, as well as the independent schools. This important aspect of the festival ensures that we can bring the power and excitement of literacy directly to students across central Vancouver Island.

On the day of the festival there are multiple presentations throughout the day. The presenters use a variety of techniques to inspire creativity and enthusiasm for books in their audience. Some presenters use technology or story-blankets and others may leap and bounce about. The presentations are usually very interactive and audience participation is common, as the presenters ask children to help with future book ideas or assist with a new illustration. 

Over the lunch hour, there are always lots of exciting children’s activities. In the past we have had face-painting, puppet making, costume dress-up, stilt walkers, bubble blowing, chalk art and musical performances. The day is capped off with an author/illustrator book signing where the children can meet their favourite presenters in person!

Our Mission


We believe all children are inspired and enriched by opportunities that bring them together with the creators of Canadian Children’s literature in an atmosphere of discovery, celebration and family fun.


Our mission is to provide such opportunities by offering hospitality, support, and exposure to Canadian authors and illustrators through a quality, child-centered, community book festival.

Our Objectives


To promote literacy and a love of literature by introducing children to high-quality works by Canadian authors & illustrators.

To stimulate children’s creativity by bringing them together with professional authors and illustrators who share their creative development and processes.

To celebrate excellence in Canadian children’s literature and book illustration by showcasing both well-established and notable new authors and illustrators.

Our History

The Vancouver Island Children’s Book Festival (BookFest) has a long history on Vancouver Island. In 1986, a group of local teachers from School District 68, booksellers, and librarians organized the first BookFest in Nanaimo, BC. “Seeds for the festival were sown in 1986 when Darlene Forest worked with the Parksville-Qualicum School District to co-ordinate a Canada Council reading program to bring eight writers from across the country,” says Thora Howell, one of the festivals founding volunteers. “That first program enabled every child in the district to meet an author.” When it was over, Sharon Luttrell, the festival’s first co-ordinator, said “We can make it bigger and better. I believe we could have a marvellous annual festival.”

Malaspina College joined as a sponsor the following year, providing a central site, advertising and registration for the festival – all free of charge. Storytellers Bill Richardson and Sarah Ellis, authors Janet Munsil and H.J. Hutchins, and puppeteer Michele Carrier were part of that first festival. Hundreds of children were able to listen and talk to authors one-on-one. They lined up to have their books signed, and enjoyed such festival events as bubble blowing, bookmark-making and musical acts. This very first festival set the tone for the many years to come.

Since then, BookFest has hosted over 150 of the most esteemed authors and illustrators from every part of Canada, including Quebec and the North. Over the years, festival attendance on the day of the event has varied from 450 – 1000. In addition, our outreach program reaches 6000- 9500 children in schools across Vancouver Island each year.

For our 25th anniversary in 2011, BookFest decided to make the move to downtown Nanaimo. Centered in the Diana Krall Plaza, and directly in front of the Harbourfront Branch of Vancouver Island Regional Library, the festival has thrived. We are looking forward to continuing this great tradition, inspiring children to read, write, draw, and develop their creativity, and continuing to show children how great our Canadian authors and illustrators are!

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