Actor and voice artist Oliver Wyman is appearing at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock, N.Y., on Saturday, December 7, to entertain youngsters with a reading from Kate DiCamillo's Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. Along with signings by several local children's book authors, the performance is part of the store's celebration of the fourth annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.
The Golden Notebook, which is celebrating the event for the first time, is joining more than 500 bookstores in the U.S., Canada, England, Germany and Australia participating in Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. "We have a wonderful children's and YA section and have been slowly moving toward more in-store kids programming," explained owner Jackie Kellachan. "I see this as a great opportunity to promote indie bookstores as well as to create a fun event." She heard about Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day from Jenny Milchman, a novelist, mother of two and founder of the event, who recently moved to the Woodstock area.
The mission of the holiday is to introduce children to bookstores and everything they have to offer, from the benefits of being in an environment that's visually, intellectually and socially stimulating to the sense of investment and empowerment that comes with selecting and acquiring a new book. It's also an opportunity for kids to interact with booksellers, not only to receive personal reading recommendations, just like grown-ups do, but for the chance to spend time with role models for whom books are the center of their day-to-day lives. Participating booksellers can add their store to the interactive map at takeyourchildtoabookstore.org, as well as get banners and pins to display on websites and blogs or download and print a promotional poster.
"There are many wonderful authors and other people who are doing kids' literacy campaigns," Milchman said. "I applaud them and we'd love to tie in to that, but Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day is different. It's really about the fact that there is a physical immersion to reading a book and there is a physical immersion to choosing that book, or there can be, and when there is it becomes almost a completely different experience. It says something to a child in a way he'll never get if he just sees mom order a book online."
Earlier this year Milchman spent seven months on the road visiting bookstores to promote her debut suspense novel, Cover of Snow, along with Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. "All across the country I saw the most touching encounters where a bookseller would reach down her hand and a child would take it and be led and leave that day with something that could change their life," she said. "To have that potential in each moment is a really big part of the holiday."
Milchman and a board of directors she assembled are close to establishing Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day as a nonprofit, which will allow it to raise funds and apply for public and private grants. Plans include partnering with schools in at-risk communities, to conduct field trips on the holiday for kids who might not otherwise be able to participate.
Along with Milchman, board members are Paul Maguire, who worked on the New York Stock Exchange and is the author of Professor Atlas and the Summoning Dagger and other children's books; Todd G. Monahan, senior attorney, Office of the Professions, New York State Department of Education; and Beth Miller, who has more than two decades of experience in the nonprofit sector. Miller's fond memories of childhood excursions to bookstores with her father and three siblings inspired her to join the board. "Every child should have that opportunity to walk into an independent bookstore and visit another world, one where they are free to imagine, learn and escape into a nurturing and safe environment," she said.
Support from the American Booksellers Association has boosted awareness of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day as have social media outreach, word of mouth and Milchman's own grass roots efforts. A stop on her cross-country tour was at Mystery to Me in Madison, Wis., where she was the first author ever to read at the newly opened store. While there she talked up Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which the shop will celebrate with storytelling and hands-on activities.
Milchman said, "The goal is to see every child in the country in a bookstore on the first Saturday of December." --Shannon McKenna Schmidt