Last summer author Jenny Milchman and her family set out on a cross-country trek, with a twist. Spreading the word about Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, they visited some 60 independent bookstores from northern New Jersey to Portland, Ore. "My kids now think a summer vacation that doesn't involve books isn't a real summer vacation at all," said Milchman.
The second annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day is set for Saturday, December 3. Milchman is spending it at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, N.J., with her two children. Nearly 150 stores in 35 states are taking part, along with retailers in Canada, England and Australia. Participating booksellers can add their store to the interactive map at www.takeyourchildtoabookstore.org as well as download and print a promotional poster. (The book-reading kid featured on the poster is Milchman's daughter.)
When Milchman first came up with the idea for Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, inspired by bookstore visits with her children, she posted about it on the mystery-oriented DorothyL listserv and discussion forum. The response was overwhelmingly favorable and from there went viral after being picked up by book bloggers and the media. More than 80 stores participated in the inaugural Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.
Greg Bruss, co-owner of Mysteries & More in Nashville, Tenn., saw the DorothyL notice and was the first bookseller to contact Milchman. For the second time, the store is celebrating Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and this year has added to the festivities. The store is tying it in with a holiday open house and will have newlywed authors Jennifer Trafton (The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic) and A.S. Peterson (The Fiddler's Gun and Fiddler's Green) on hand, along with offering special discounts and holding drawings for gift baskets.
Besides Milchman's grassroots efforts on behalf of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, word of mouth has increased awareness as well. At Trolley Line Books in Rogers, Ark., owners Pat and Myra Moran learned about the Day from a local librarian and will have mystery scribe Radine Trees Nehring (Journey to Die For) read a story and conduct a workshop for kids on how to write a suspenseful tale.
Kirsten Hess of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., noticed a mention about Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day on a blog listed on LinkedIn. The holiday happens to dovetail with a Winter Craft and Storytime session that was already on the schedule. "It's a wonderful idea to help engage children in wanting to read," Hess said. "As a parent of a seven-year-old girl, I have spent countless hours with her in bookstores."
In addition, Hess noted that the materials available at takeyourchildtoabookstore.org make it easier for booksellers to promote the holiday. Bookmarks Milchman provided were handed out to several first-grade classes and at a library in town. Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day is featured on the RJ Julia Facebook page not only to promote their event "but to highlight the day and encourage the act of going to a bookstore, any bookstore," said Hess.
A bookseller Milchman met during her summer excursion is Susie Wilmer, who owns Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colo. "I was knocked out by the great concept of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day," Wilmer said. "It is so simple but really is a great idea. I wanted to get in on the action as soon as Jenny explained what she's doing. Of course, for some people it will only be a reminder, but I would like to shout the idea from the rooftop. People really should be taking their children to a bookstore regularly." Along with story time, plans for the day at Old Firehouse Books include a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on Dr. Seuss titles.
Milchman is far from done logging miles. She's planning another road trip next summer to continue promoting Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, followed several months later by an even longer expedition. When her debut novel, the literary thriller Cover of Snow (Ballantine) is published in early 2013, she plans to be on the road for six months. Topmost on her itinerary: visiting bookstores and other great American landmarks. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt