Summer is a time when many of us finally find time to travel. Stacey Rattner’s new Leap into Reading column from the summer issue of School Library Connection gives you ten compelling reasons to make sure your next road trip includes a book festival.
The next time there is a book festival within a three-hour drive,* grab your pocketbook, make sure your phone is charged and has extra storage for pictures, gas up and go. Believe it or not, book festivals could be your ticket to success in your library. Just one example—I wouldn’t have had the talented, multiple Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King award winning illustrator, Bryan Collier, to my library if we hadn’t met at a book festival.
The Top 10 reasons to clear your calendar for a book festival near (or not so near) you:
10. You get to meet your favorite authors. Yes, authors equal rock stars in our minds. How lucky are we that we have book festivals to meet these creative folks we’ve been admiring from afar for so long? Ever hear of a movie star festival where you could get this close to dozens of stars?
9. Great opportunity to make connections for potential author visits. This is a place where you actually have a few minutes to chat with authors and illustrators to see if you connect…before you bring them to your school. Maybe there is an author you don’t really know that well but you meet—start chatting and the next thing you know you are BFFs. Now that’s someone you want to come to your school. This has happened to me more than once!
8. Get all your books signed—really signed. If things happen in #9, then think of how personalized your book becomes. You won’t just get a signature. Now, that’s pretty cool.
7. Authors and illustrators love librarians. They WANT to talk to US as much as we want to talk to them. It’s great to talk to fans, but we’re different. We create fans and we buy lots of books.
6. We make things fun. Of course, it’s cool for them to talk to an eight-year-old about their book, but eight-year-old after eight-year-old? These festivals can get boring at times for authors and we break up their monotony (see #3). We also give the authors the opportunity to talk to an adult who has read their book, rather than the eight-year-old.
5. There’s usually swag. Need to decorate your library? A book festival is a good start. Most authors have bookmarks to give away and if you’ve been chatting for a while, they will usually say, “Here. Take as many as you want.” Listen to them and don’t be shy. There also may be pencils, postcards, and more that you can bring home to the library for prizes and tchotchkes for students.
4. Support local independent bookstores. Authors usually have a pile of their books. You choose which one you want, ask for it to be signed and then when you are finished meeting everyone (or you can’t carry any more), you check out. A portion of the sales usually goes back to the festival or local community.
3. You can take a goofy picture with the people you consider “rock stars.” What’s your signature pose? I always ask authors and illustrators to leap with me. They look at me quizzically, ask me to repeat what I said, and then they agree. Maybe you want to take a selfie. Maybe you carry fun glasses around and ask to take pictures with those. Whatever it is, have fun with it and the authors won’t forget you.
2. Great opportunity to make connections with potential author visits. It’s worth repeating. This is the place where you scope out your favorite authors and spend some quality time with them. It’s also the place where you could meet someone you’ve never heard of but you have a great deal in common with and they are pretty cool. Grab their cards or information, jot down notes, and when it comes to making a decision about a visit, reach out to those folks.
1. Book festivals are just plain FUN in another town. Chances are the book festival isn’t right in your town. Take a road trip to see your favorite author. Bring your family and friends, and be open to making new ones, too!
And may I make one more suggestion? Get some business cards made up. Maybe even with your signature pose or goofiness (see #3). My son illustrated me leaping and that’s on my card. I had 500 made at Vistaprint and I am happy to hand them out to anyone who will take them. Once you’ve connected with an author or illustrator (see #6 and #7), they will be asking you for your card!
* Stacey’s driven up to four hours to attend “local” bookfairs and meet rock stars
Stacey Rattner is the school librarian at Castleton Elementary School in upstate New York. She earned her master’s in information systems from SUNY at Albany. You can find her on Twitter @staceybethr and follow her as she tests the blogging waters at http://librarianleaps.blogspot.com/.