Mystery writer Jenny Milchman started “Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day” (TYCBD) in 2010 when she was visiting a local bookstore each week with her children and realized the positive impact the visits were making on her children. This interview with Milchman and her board members explores their motivation for creating a national day to help parents raise awareness of bookstores for their children. “A book is a portal into other worlds and a bookstore is where you access that portal,” said Milchman.
From a business standpoint, bookstores have been suffering for years. The rise of e-books and online retailers selling books at discount have made it difficult for these small businesses to survive. Another board member, Paul Maguire, who is a children’s book author, said, “This is an event that by nature brings to bookstores an influx of customers who might otherwise have spent their day doing something else. TYCBD establishes a longer-term effect as well. The spirit of the Day, the concept of presenting a trip to the bookstore as an exciting event one can look forward to rather than as a plain old shopping experience, cultivates an attitude of seeing bookstores as special places that provide knowledge, entertainment, and dreams. It sets bookstores apart as much more special than any other kind of retailer.”
Beth Miller has worked and volunteered in the arts field for over twenty years. One of her passions is helping children discover the joys of reading. She described why she believes this event continues to grow. “The future of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day is motivated by the organization’s interest in making local bookstores accessible to all children—even ones that live in areas where they may not have strong community ties to their local bookstore or live in a community where the joys of reading, or education for that matter, are emphasized. TYCBD, Inc. plans to target these children by funding field trips for them to experience their bookstores and develop a relationship with their owners, creating a standing invitation for the students to spend time in a place which is a safe and nurturing environment where their imagination can fuel their play.”
Maguire also believes in the future of the event because of his own children. He said, “I have a nine-year-old who is a voracious reader, a five-year-old who is taking a great interest in learning how to read, and a fifteen-month-old who I know will someday be a great reader as well. In my view, reading of every kind is an activity that provides knowledge. And as I tell my children, knowledge is power.”
All of the board members of TYCBD believe in that ideology. Board member Todd Monahan, a practicing attorney, said he’s experiencing the same thing with his child. “What keeps me going is my personal experience with my own son. He is not even 2 years old and already knows all his letters and numbers, and even some words. He can recite from memory some lines of his favorite books, such as those by Dr. Seuss. It is magical to see a little mind form before my eyes. I know that books will always be an integral part of our lives.”
Monahan added, “TYCBD celebrates and seeks to realize the creative potential within every child. The process of reading is active: the mind participates in and ‘creates’ the story being read, as opposed to simply passively receiving sights, sounds, and story as is the case with other popular media, such as television, movies, and video games. Starting a child reading at a young age creates familiarity with books, and with them letters, numbers, words, and sentences. The more familiar the child is with these things at a young age, the more comfortable that child will be in school. Moreover, once a child realizes the power of his/her imagination, there is no limit to its applicability in all different walks of life. Children who know the value of reading and literacy become adults who know the value of reading and literacy, and will be more likely to pass on what they have learned to others.”
The shared passion of these four young people has helped the program grow rapidly in its first few years of existence. This year, there will be more than 600 bookstores participating in the event. All four board members want to see the program grow to national nonprofit status so they can begin to reach even more children. For Milchman, reaching those children means helping them ignite their own passions.
“There are children for whom a book may be a saving grace, true salvation—they were for me,” said Milchman. “But many great authors, such as James Patterson, David Baldacci and others, are working to increase childhood literacy and reading. The unique role bookstores can play in a child’s life are less focused on, however. Bookstores connect us to our community; they represent real-time, face-to-face encounters, and sensory engagement in an often virtual world. But more than that–bookstores are an Ali Baba treasure lair of jeweled covers and inner illustrations. The sights and smells of a bookstore are not found anywhere else. But it’s the interaction between booksellers who have made books their life’s passion and a child whose passion is just awakening that is most important. We don’t know whose voice may spark what for a child. But my guess is it can be found in a bookstore.”
Learn more about Take Your Child to a Bookstore on their website at takeyourchildtoabookstore.org, where you can also find a map to your nearest participating bookstore. Jenny Milchman’s author website is at www.jennymilchman.com. Paul Maguire’s website is at www.paulmaguireauthor.com.