Kids’ Institute Preview: Meeting Literacy Needs

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

It’s a natural for booksellers who cater to children’s reading needs in their formative years to become literacy advocates within their communities, though it can sometimes seem a daunting task. Examining the literacy needs and efforts in your area, and how to bring books and reading initiatives to the children who need them the most will be the subject of a panel discussion at the American Booksellers Association’s ABC Children’s Institute at BookExpo America on Wednesday, June 6. The 2:00 p.m. session “Meeting the Literacy Needs in Your Community” will be moderated by Dara LaPorte, co-founder of An Open Book Foundation, and will feature children’s booksellers Meghan Goel and Ellen Richmond, Carol Rasco of Reading Is Fundamental, Jennifer Frances of Bess the Book Bus, and Hillary Roselund of Jumpstart.

At Children’s Book Cellar in Waterville, Maine, owner Ellen Richmond has always stressed the importance of literacy and the number of doors that will open for a child who knows how to read and comprehend. She believes that booksellers have as much of a duty to advocate literacy as teachers, librarians, and parents — and she often finds herself helping guide the latter.

“Fortunately, many parents recognize the importance of books in the lives and development of their children. Unfortunately, many parents do not. I’ve heard parents say to a child asking for a book, ‘You don’t need another book. You already have some.’ Ouch!” she said.

“I’ve also had parents and grandparents ask me for a book to ‘teach’ their 18-month-old how to read. At that age, they’re still learning to talk and listen! In cases like that, I have to be an advocate for the child and guide the parents into appropriate book/child interactions.”

Children’s Book Cellar works closely with local schools to foster reading among students. The store donates ARCs and arranges for authors to visit classrooms, and Richmond serves as a resource for teachers, often suggesting titles for specific curricula.

“We are the purveyors, the source of reading material, so we need to help our customers find the books that will excite them and keep them reading for life,” she said.

Meghan Goel, children’s book buyer at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, believes that part of a children’s bookseller’s mission is to grow readers and inspire kids with a lasting love of reading.

“I honestly think that people gravitate toward children’s bookselling in the first place because they believe in that core mission and want to be there on the front lines building readers,” she said.

BookPeople stays actively involved with local schools year-round, said Goel, and that includes bringing local and touring authors into several schools, offering free seasonal book talks, in-store book drives and book fairs, as well as donations to silent auctions. The store is also working to expand in-school book fairs to bring books into a wider variety of schools. Additionally, BookPeople was the founding partner of the Austin Teen Book Festival, which aims to expose as many teens as possible to great authors and great books.

“I think that for all of us, supporting literacy is both an incredibly important and slightly overwhelming task, said Goel. “For those of us in large cities in particular, there are so many schools and programs worthy of support that it can be hard to serve every community as well as we would like. I am really looking forward to getting new ideas to reach further out into our community in ways we may not have done before.”

The education portion of the Children’s Institute is open free of charge to all ABA member booksellers. However, registration is required for booksellers who would like to participate in the full day of Children’s Institute programming, including the special package of popular author events:

Registration is $99 for ABC Group member booksellers (a $199 value) and $149 for all other ABA member booksellers (a savings of $100 that includes automatic membership in the ABC Group). Registration is not required for ABA members who wish to attend the education program only. Registration will close once the limit of 150 booksellers is reached or by May 1, whichever comes first.

For complete details and to register, visit