The Orange County Children’s Book Festival returns to the OCC in Costa Mesa on Sunday



For young readers who like to get lost in a good story, Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa will be a safe bet this Sunday, as the Orange County Book Festival offers a day of literary fun.

Now in his 18e year, the free event aims to connect families and educators with local and national authors, illustrators and storytellers, while providing a fun-filled day of entertainment, performance and learning.

Costa Mesa resident Pat Burns co-founded the free event to bring the magic of books to the county’s youngest readers. Since its inception, she says, an incredible pool of talent and resources has come together around the festival’s mission to inspire the joy of reading from an early age.

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, left, speaks during the 2019 Orange County Children’s Book Festival, an event returning to Orange Coast College on Sunday.

(Michelle Burns)

“When the universe is online, doors just open,” says Burns, a marketing expert who describes herself as a natural connector and idea “promoter”. “That’s pretty much been the goal of the festival ever since. From the start, everyone said yes.

The list of famous authors and illustrators who have said yes in recent years includes actress Jamie Lee Curtis, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and local sports legend Kobe Bryant. Some have books they hope to promote, while others simply admire the courtship spirit of the event.

“We want to shape the future of children,” Burns said. “The early love of learning is key.”

Sunday’s event will feature a diverse line-up of speakers and live demonstrations on six main stages – including a storytelling stage for readers-in-training, a STEAM Ahead stage with talks and science and a World Stories & Adventures scene with bilingual books that incorporate Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean languages.

Star Wars stormtroopers battle attendees at the Orange County Children's Book Festival, which returns to OCC on Sunday.

Star Wars stormtroopers battle attendees at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival, which returns to OCC on Sunday.

(Dan Hopkinson)

The entertainment stage will include an appearance by actor Justin Baldoni, from the TV show ‘Jane the Virgin’, a fashion talk by designers Kheris Rogers and Paul Frank, of Orange County, as well as live musical performances .

Attendees can also visit the OCC Planetarium, where scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will give presentations related to astronomy, oceanography and earth science.

But for all the entertaining aspects of this year’s lineup, books and reading are the real stars, Burns says.

Pat Burns, co-founder of the Orange County Children's Book Festival, in 2020.

Pat Burns, co-founder of the Orange County Children’s Book Festival, in 2020.

(Kevin Chang / personal photographer)

Finding a love of literacy at an early age wasn’t exactly in the cards for Burns herself, who grew up the eldest of five children in a military family and spent time caring for siblings. and younger sisters to read books or be read to. Now she wants to give that head start to future generations.

“No matter your socioeconomic status or your race, if you pick up a book and start reading young, it will make your path to success a straight line,” she explained. “If we can inspire a love of books and reading, it will have an impact forever.”

The Orange County Children’s Book Festival is held Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. Free entry. To learn more, visit

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