Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day Speaks Out

Interview with Jenny Milchman

  1. What inspired you to create this special day? Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day began when my own kids were little and I was taking them to Story Hour at our local bookstore nearly every week. Fun and edifying for them, latte and a new book for me. I asked myself, “How many children know the joy of time spent like this—and how many parents?”  But the Day really began years—decades—before that, when I was a child myself, growing up in a town with four independent bookstores, each of which provided shelter for me during the inevitable upheavals of childhood. I wanted to do something to expose the next generation to their magic.

  1. How did you go about promoting it? The very first thing I did was float the idea for Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day on a listserv of mystery readers called DorothyL. This was back in 2010, and before you could say the word ‘book,’ bloggers, authors, and readers from all across the country were getting the word out. Just two short weeks later, eighty bookstores celebrated the very first TYCBD. That summer, my husband and I packed the children who started it all into the car, along with bookmarks and posters, and we drove cross-country, visiting bookstores. That year, participants numbered 300, and things have grown ever since so that in our sixth year, we have 800 participating bookstores in all 50 states and on 5 continents! (I’m still holding out for Antarctica).

  1. Where can more people get information about participating stores? Our website has this fun, interactive map:

  1. How should we celebrate this day?  If you have a child, or know a child, or are a child at heart yourself—go into a bookstore this December 3rd (Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day is celebrated the first Saturday in December to coincide with holiday gift giving). Perhaps your local bookstore will be celebrating—or perhaps you can introduce them to the Day. Even just spending time in the bookstore will be a celebration—and a chance for you to support a local business and introduce a child to the joys of unplugged time. And don’t limit your visits to TYCBD—I always say that this is one holiday that can be celebrated every day!

  1. Why is it so important that we get kids to appreciate books, especially printed ones from physical stores?  There is increasing research that shows our constantly connected life is, paradoxically, responsible for a great deal of disconnect. And the associated risks and unintended consequences (which extend to cognitive, social, even health realms) are particularly perilous for children, who not only miss out on real time, tactile, and interactive experiences—but may never have been exposed to them in the first place.  Books and bookstores counteract these negatives—and I am by no means saying that all technology and virtual connection is bad. But it does come with downsides, and one way we can mitigate these is by making sure children spend time in modes besides digital ones, do activities that encourage “single task focus,” and give their minds a chance to build interest and stimulation versus passively taking it in. In other words, let them ask a bookseller about a book, find it on a shelf, then take it home and read it.

6. How else can we grow literacy in this country? Libraries are huge, equalizing forces in the fight for literacy and dissemination of knowledge. Visit your local library in addition to your bookstore. If you have time, volunteer at a literacy organization, or make a financial contribution to one. Finally, being a reader yourself—letting people, children included, see you with an open book in your hands—is probably the single biggest catalyst in creating a desire to read. It’s been shown that children of avid readers are more likely to become readers themselves.

  1. What more do you believe can be done to promote independent bookstores? It’s a two part effort—members of a community must vote with their dollars, be willing to support this bricks and mortar resource by understanding that its stock will cost more than it does online where there’s no rent to pay, heating/cooling costs, and the like.  Then the bookstores themselves must get creative in terms of their “value add”. The most successful ones I’ve visited all over the country have full and rich events calendars—you can’t meet Lee Child on Amazon—or they give book clubs and writers groups a place in which to meet, have cafes to purchase a treat as you browse, employ booksellers who are true curators of the stock, and offer pleasing, inviting spaces in which to wile away an hour—or a day.  Bookstores are hubs of their communities, and what they offer simply can’t be found anywhere else.

Jenny Milchman is the author of three thrillers published by Ballantine/Penguin Random House, each of which she promoted by visiting bookstores nationwide with her family on what has been called “the world’s longest book tour.” Jenny founded Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day in 2010.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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