Keynote, Featured Speakers Announced for 2016 Children’s Institute

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Award-winning authors Julia Alvarez, Dave Barry, and Kate DiCamillo will be the keynote speakers at the 2016 ABC Children’s Institute. The American Booksellers Association’s fourth institute designed specifically for children’s booksellers (Ci4) will be held June 21– 23, at the Wyndham Orlando Resort International in Orlando, Florida.

After a Welcome Reception & Book Swap on Tuesday evening, June 21, a packed schedule of educational programming kicks off early the next morning. The Ci4 program, which runs through 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 23, features outstanding keynote and featured speakers, nine breakout sessions, reps picks and small press lunches, an author reception, roundtable discussions, and more. The Children’s Institute is made possible by the generous support of lead sponsor Baker & Taylor with additional support from publisher sponsors.

Here’s a look at Ci4’s keynote speakers, announced today:

Opening plenary speaker Kate DiCamillo is an award-winning author and a former Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie, was published in 2000 and chosen as a Newbery Honor Book. The Tiger Rising, her second novel, was a National Book Award finalist.

DiCamillo was awarded her first Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux, the story of a tiny mouse with exceptionally large ears who is driven by love to become an unlikely hero, and her second for Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page, black-and-white illustrations.

In her latest novel, Raymie Nightingale, DiCamillo returns to her roots in Florida. Like Raymie Clarke, the hero of this novel, DiCamillo grew up in a small southern town in the 1970s with a single mother, and she, too, entered a Little Miss contest and attempted to learn to twirl a baton. But while Raymie’s story is inspired by the author’s own life, DiCamillo has transformed these seeds of truth into fiction — and in doing so, has captured a more universal truth.

As the Children’s Institute’s opening keynote speaker, DiCamillo will talk about her role as ambassador emeritus for young people’s literature, and some of the opportunities for bookstores to grow their business and programming around community and summer reading initiatives.

Dave Barry will be the keynote speaker on Thursday morning, June 23, at the Children’s Institute.

Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist and the author of more than two dozen books, including the just-released You Can Date When You’re 40. Along with Ridley Pearson, he is the co-author of the Peter and the Starcatchers series and the novel Science Fair. Barry, his wife Michelle and their family live in Miami, Florida.

Julia Alvarez will deliver the Ci4 closing keynote address on Thursday afternoon, June 23.

Alvarez is the author of numerous books for adults, including In the Time of the Butterflies and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, which was picked by New York librarians as one of 21 classics for the 21st century. She is also an accomplished writer of children’s and YA books, including the Tia Lola Stories, Return to Sender, and Before We Were Free, which was an ALA Best Book of 2002 and winner of ALA’s Pura Belpre Award.

She is writer-in-residence at Middlebury College and co-founder with Bill Eichner of Alta Gracia, a sustainable coffee farm and literacy center in the Dominican Republic. Alvarez is also a founding member of Border of Lights, an ongoing movement to promote peace and collaboration between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Her forthcoming book Where Do They Go?, illustrated by Sabra Field (October 2016), is for any child who has ever wondered what happens to those they love after they die. A Spanish language edition, ¿Donde va a parar?, will be published simultaneously in paperback.

Ci4 Featured Speakers

Dana Suskind, author of Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, will discuss literacy development at a featured talk on Wednesday afternoon at Ci4.

Dr. Suskind is a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago, director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program, and founder and director of the Thirty Million Words® Initiative. Based on scientific research that shows the critical importance of early language exposure on the developing child, Thirty Million Words® helps parents enhance their home language environment in order to optimize their child’s brain development and, therefore, his or her ability to learn.

Anevidence-based intervention, Thirty Million Words® is supported by a broad coalition of public and private partnerships and is an extension of Dr. Suskind’s Project ASPIRE, which she created to assure that her patients from disadvantaged backgrounds reached their full listening and spoken language potentials. Dr. Suskind’s ultimate goal, and that of her dedicated team, is to help all children reach their full potentials and to close the ever-widening achievement gap.

A second Wednesday afternoon featured talk will present Jeff James, the vice president and general manager of Disney Institute, the professional development arm of The Walt Disney Company, speaking about customer service.

James is responsible for bringing custom solutions grounded in the time-tested success and insights from The Walt Disney Company to Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses around the globe. He leads a global team of Disney subject matter experts who engage with clients to implement and sustain culture change initiatives through Disney’s proprietary approach.

With 20 years of experience leading a broad range of Disney businesses and operations, James is an expert in the company’s successful core competencies of leadership, customer experience, and employee engagement.

James holds a B.S. in Business/Commercial Recreation from the University of Colorado and several professional licenses in the sales, insurance, and real estate fields. His writing on Disney business insights can be read on Talking Point, The Disney Institute Blog.

Kristen McLean, director of new business development at Nielsen Book, a part of Nielsen Entertainment, will return to the Children’s Institute to share the latest data and emerging trends in children’s book sales.

McLean is a 20-year veteran of the book industry, whose career has included roles in frontline retailing, merchandising, buying, field sales, marketing, and business development.

Since 2010, she has edited Nielsen Book’s deep-dive consumer study of the children’s book market, Children’s Books in the Digital World, which originated at R.R. Bowker. In 2013, she co-chaired O’Reilly Media’s Author (R)evolution Day, a Tools of Change conference for professional authors and creators, and in 2014 she became the co-chair of Nielsen’s Children’s Book Summit, an annual marketplace trend event focusing on the children’s content space. In 2015, Mclean launched the Nielsen Christian Summit, and she continues to oversee both the Children’s and Christian verticals for Nielsen Book.

In addition to managing Nielsen Entertainment’s in-house events, Mclean lectures extensively on issues facing the publishing world, including the effect of technology and culture on books and reading, the role of bookstores and libraries in the lives of 21st century readers, and emerging models for the publishing industry. She regularly presents at national and international conferences, including IDPF, Digital Book World, Editech, Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Writer’s Digest, Muse & the Marketplace, and Book Expo America (BEA).

Prior to joining Nielsen, she was the founder and CEO of Bookigee, an innovative data and analytics company in the publishing space. Over the years, her clients have included Scholastic, HarperCollins, Random House, Dreamscape Media, Shelf Awareness, Disney Publishing, Page Foundry, R.R. Bowker, and Tribune Media, among many others.

Before founding Bookigee, Mclean was executive director of the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC). In 2011, under her leadership, ABC merged with the American Booksellers Association.

Watch for an announcement of the full Children’s Institute program of breakout education sessions and roundtables in next week’s Bookselling This Week. Registration for the 2016 ABC Children’s Institute opens to booksellers at all ABA member stores on February 24.

Booksellers can apply now for a chance to win a publisher-sponsored scholarship that will cover Ci4 conference fee, the cost of airfare or ground transportation up to $400, and two hotel nights plus tax.