Knoxville,TN - Knox County Public Library and the East Tennessee Historical Society with the Center for Children's and Young Adult Literature at the University of Tennessee are pleased to present Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children's Literature. The exhibit opens to the public on June 16 and runs through September 14 at the Museum of East Tennessee History, 601. S. Gay Street.  This groundbreaking exhibition of Appalachian children's literature explores books published since the late 1800s.  Based on research by Jamie Osborn, Manager of the Halls Branch Library, Reading Appalachia aims to show a more complete picture of our region's literary heritage and how this literature tells the story of childhood in Appalachia. 


The opening reception is set for Sunday, June 15 from 2-5 p.m. and features George Ella Lyon, acclaimed author of many books set in Appalachia. Little Emi Sunshine will play music during the reception. This 9-year-old rising star from Madisonville, TN, recently made her national debut on The Today Show. The public is invited to enjoy live music, refreshments, and a sneak peak of the exhibition. Admission is free for the sneak peek and reception this Sunday, and for the exhibition on all Sundays.  From Monday - Saturday, adult admission is $5. Children under 16 and East Tennessee Historical Society members get in for free year-round.


Sporting life-size characters from some of the books, the exhibit is designed to create the sensation of walking through the pages of a storybook. Children can stand eye-to-eye with characters from Journey Cake Ho, A Mountain Rose, When Otter Tricked the Rabbit, When I Was Young, and others.  More than 50 books are available to touch, read, and explore. The exhibit also includes representative clothes and toys from Appalachia, music, and hands on activities that bring the subject to life for kids of all ages.  Children are encouraged to try on masks of storybook characters and find themselves in a story. They are also invited to create their own story of childhood set in Appalachia. 


Attendees can view original films and hear the voice of old time storyteller Ray Hicks along with some of their favorite authors and illustrators.  Each panel includes an interpretation of the text from a child’s perspective.

An exhibit of Appalachian children's literature at this scale has never been produced; this exhibition is designed to travel to other libraries and locations in and around Appalachia.  Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children's Literature is made possible through the generous support of the Jane L. Pettway Foundation, Friends of the Knox County Public Library, and Clayton Homes. 


Why Appalachian children’s books?

Few things capture our hearts and senses more vividly than children’s books. They ignite imagination and help bring structure and understanding to developing minds. Their stories linger and guide us into adulthood; they help define us.  


Perhaps more than any other region, Appalachia has captured the nation’s imagination. It is a land where the blue smoke of the mountains, the self-sufficiency of life in a holler, and the singsong of an enthralling storyteller come together in a near mythic culture.


Appalachia is a land about which stories are told. By examining seminal titles published over the decades since the late 1800s, we hope to show the fuller picture of our region's literary heritage, and how this literature tells the story of childhood in Appalachia. 


Mary Pom Claiborne
Marketing/Community Relations Dir
Knox County Public Library
500 W. Church Ave. 
Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 215-8767 - office
(865) 640-4146 - cell