Festival takes readers to a galaxy far, far away

Darth Vader will soon be roaming the halls of USF, along with a few stormtroopers, some Jedi and maybe a droid or two. 

The third annual Star Wars Reads Day will be celebrated Saturday across the country. This year, the USF School of Information will host a Star Wars Reads event with help from the College of Arts and Sciences. The event will take place at USF on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Communication and Information Sciences Building. 

“It’s about literacy,” said Peter Cannon, an officer of Student Organizations of Library and Information Science (SOLIS). “It’s not really about Star Wars movies, but it’s about getting people to understand that literacy is important.” 

The event will feature science fiction and fantasy authors John Hope and Chris Berman, who will talk with students about the process of writing. 

“A lot of times, we just open a book and we read the words, but we don’t fully understand how those words actually make it on to the page,” Cannon said. 

While the event’s focus is on the importance of literacy today, rather than a civil war in a far off galaxy a long time ago, Cannon said Star Wars provides a great backdrop for educating people on the importance of reading because its easily recognizable and its fan base spans every demographic. 

“The first book of Star Wars is used to teach writing because it follows a template called ‘the hero’s journey,’” Cannon said. “. . . Which is actually the same template in every movie we see. Disney uses the same formula that’s in Star Wars, the original movie and the book that was written by George Lucas.” 

Students and faculty are encouraged to come dressed up as their favorite Star Wars character and will have the opportunity to compete for prizes in a costume contest. The event will also include a visit from The 501st, a volunteer organization that brings the characters from Star Wars to life with movie-grade costumes. 

“It’d be very hard to find another fandom that has as much material available and appeals to as wide of an audience,” said Edd Schneider, assistant professor in the School of Information. 

The event is free and open to students, as well as any other book-loving Star Wars fan. 

“Some people might see this as marketing to sell Star Wars books, but, realistically, Lucas is allowing teachers and librarians to use Star Wars as bait to say to young people, ‘Hey there’s more than just the movies; why don’t you read about this kind of content?’ And hopefully all of us will start reading Star Wars books; but then they might transition to Isaac Asimov and then transition to Kurt Vonnegut,” Schneider said. “At the end of the day, that’s really the goal here: essentially, to convince people into reading and give them sort of a starting location that they know and they like.”