Earlier this month, Jenny Milchman, a literary suspense writer, blogged about what she would do if she became famous. But instead of planning shopping sprees, vacations, or extravagant events, Milchman simply wished to devote one day per year to children and bookstores. She aptly named her holiday Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chose the beginning of December to celebrate.
“We need to show our children the pleasure, not just of a story, or even of a book, but of a bookSTORE,” she wrote.
When asked how she came up with the idea, Milchman admitted she wished she had a better story – an epiphany born out of a memorable event, perhaps, like seeing a child enter a big box store in search of a video game, and knowing the child would prefer not only a book, but the experience of a bookstore as well. “But I don’t have any such anecdote,” said Milchman, who was going about her daily life, which includes Girl Scouts, soccer practice, and hours of reading to her kids. “And on one such day, I must’ve thought, ‘Let’s have a day that gets the word out about how great bookstores are.’”
After receiving positive feedback, Milchman decided to act on the idea, and quickly created a website and, with the help of her husband, a poster to be displayed in bookstores. She has been going door to door with the information, and her idea has been warmly received by booksellers and parents. She now has volunteers in 16 different states delivering posters to their local stores.
Milchman has an image of the future, she said, when Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day has become established. “At that point I hope that children who live in places without bookstores – kids who have never set foot in, nor eyes on, such a place – will be bussed to a receptive store on this special day, be taken to one on a field trip, so that no child has to go without knowing the unique pleasures a bookstore can bring.”
Greg and Mary Bruss, owners of Mysteries & More in Nashville, Tennessee, were the first booksellers to join Milchman’s campaign. They plan to promote TYCBD by displaying the poster and sending the information to customers through their mailing list. They are planning several in-store events that day, such as hosting their first young readers author, Marco Conelli, who will sign copies of his book, Matthew Livingston and the Politics of Murder.
The store will feature a special sale on young reader books, hold drawings throughout the day, and serve refreshments. The Brusses are prepared to provide their young customers with special attention and age appropriate recommendations.
“Young readers should enjoy a day dedicated just to them,” said Greg Bruss, “and booksellers always feel good when they encourage a child to enrich their lives through reading.”
On December 4, Milchman plans to take her children to their local store, Watchung Booksellers, in Montclair, New Jersey.
“It’s important to have these kinds of campaigns,” said Margot Sage-El, the owner of Watchung Booksellers. In addition to the value it can bring to a business, Sage-El agrees with the message that lies behind Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.
“I think that for me the message is how special it is to allow a child to discover a book that they can own. And by own, I mean not just purchase, but have a book that speaks to them, that gives them inspiration or challenges them,” she said.
“And I think we have to help parents be aware that video games are not really helping their children,” she continued. “Books will nurture them the old fashioned way.”
Milchman said that Take Your Childhood to a Bookstore Day is not only about childhood literacy, or instilling a love of reading.
“TYCBD is also about supporting a crucial aspect of our communities,” she said. “Some might say that a bookstore is a sign of a healthy, thriving community. And when children get to spend time in one, they are being exposed to a world they might not otherwise know exists.
“As they speak to booksellers, see stock arranged on the shelves, and note how a single chair tucked into a corner becomes a reading nook, someone in the next generation might be inspired to own a bookstore himself one day – to contribute to the roots that make for a vibrant community of the future.”