In 1984, Dr. Gloria Houston, a celebrated author of children’s books, became a visiting professor in the USF College of Education. In the following year, she established the Suncoast Young Authors Celebration (SYAC) which was hosted by the College’s Department of Childhood Education. The purpose of the celebration was to provide a forum for children to learn writing techniques from professional authors and have an opportunity to share their writing with others. USF student volunteers led the discussions with the young authors while their accompanying teachers attended writing workshops. Dr. Houston directed the Suncoast Young Authors Celebration until 1994.
Drs. Kathy Oropallo and Barry Morris co-chaired the event in 1995. Dr. Margie Radencich joined the SYAC team in 1996. The event was moved from the College of Education building site to the USF Marshall Center to accommodate the 1,300 children and adults who were able to attend. Due to the ongoing renovation of the College of Education Building in 1997, the event was cancelled.
In 1998, SYAC returned under the direction of Dr. Jenifer Schneider. Dr. Schneider altered the focus of the event so that children could celebrate their writing accomplishments as well as learn from professional children’ book authors and illustrators. The Suncoast Young Authors Celebration became a festival for children in grades Kindergarten through five who wrote and/or illustrated stories, poetry, and non-fiction. SYAC honored the creativity of children and promoted lifelong writing, reading, and visual expression. During the scheduled events, children shared their writing with each other, listened to nationally recognized authors and illustrators, and participated in literacy centers.
During Dr. Schneider’s first year, she invited Dr. Gloria Houston to return to USF as a featured presenter. Dr. Houston was joined by Eloise Greenfield, Matt Novak, and Tim Hodge, and they spoke to the children about their work as writers and illustrators.
In 2004, Dr. Schneider initiated a panel session on the eve of the main event in order for classroom teachers and media specialists to have the opportunity to learn from the authors and illustrators who share techniques and strategies with the children.
Currently, some of the most notable, award-winning authors and illustrators of children’s books have shared their experiences with the young writers who attend the celebration. Children from all over the Tampa Bay area look forward to the Suncoast Young Authors Celebration every year.
More complete information on the Suncoast Young Authors Celebration can be found at www.coedu.usf.edu/syac.