Indie Ingenuity: Little Shop of Stories Gets Their Community On the Same Page!
The independent bookstores that we work with on a daily basis are full of incredibly talented and creative folks who put together amazing programs in and for their communities all the time. This is the start of a new feature on Random Acts of Reading that will highlight some of these events.
One shining example is a children’s bookstore in Decatur, Georgia called Little Shop of Stories where, for the last two years the fabulous staff has planned a community-wide, months-long, reading initiative called On the Same Page. The goal of the program is to “foster a community of readers by bringing families together around the same book” and this past fall, HOLES by Louis Sachar was the focus book. They want everyone to “Get On The Same Page”, so they encourage participants across the city to read together and find common ground through literature and the love of reading. They partner with schools throughout the community to incorporate the book selection into teachers’ lesson plans, and they work with various non-profits and local businesses to raise money for kids who can’t afford to buy a book.
The scope of this project is huge! They kicked off the program by announcing Holes as their 2012 book selection during the Decatur Book Festival, the largest independent book festival in the country. Then they hosted a series of events over the next three months: book club trainings and discussions; a Holes movie screening; a Habitat For Humanity Work Day where kids could dig their own holes and plant azalea bushes donated by Ace Hardware; a shoe drive and shoe auction – they got the Atlanta Braves to sign shoes that were auctioned off to raise money for the program and for homeless shelters in Atlanta; and the grand finale, a visit from Louis Sachar himself – a great way to end the program with a bang!
I am happy to welcome Krista Gilliam, one of the program coordinators and the children’s book buyer at Little Shop of Stories, to share the touching stories of the two days that Louis Sachar spent with some of the kids who had been living and breathing Holes throughout the fall.
We took Louis Sachar to four different schools, so he probably saw over 700 kids at the schools. Each school welcomed him in a different way and showed how they embraced the program: One school made a video, one school had the kids dress up as characters in the book (and the media specialist was in a full-body orange jump suit) so we saw lots of Stanleys, Kissin’ Kates, and even Mr. Sir. All of the schools displayed art work they had made based on the book (posters, giant painted lizards, cardboard dioramas of Camp Green Lake, etc.) One school welcomed him with a drum circle and had kids perform a song they had made using the lyrics from the “If Only” poem in the book. We were so moved by their performance that we had they perform again on Friday night at our grand finale event.
The biggest thing at each of the schools was just their enthusiasm about meeting him. He was treated like a rock star at every school….the kids were bursting with excitement and overjoyed to get the chance to meet him. I can’t stress how much the schools appreciated his visit, and how many kids were thrilled to get to ask him questions about the book that they’ve spent so much time with this fall. It was awesome to see their enthusiasm over a book.
The event Friday night probably had around 300 people, and they were also all thrilled to meet him. We started the event by telling some of the stories from the past few months (kids who met for book club in a tree house and then dug a 5 foot hole in their back yard, a dad who skyped in with his family while out of town so he wouldn’t miss the nightly reading, the school who created care packages for homeless kids and took them to shelters around Atlanta, the fact that over 200 shoes were donated to a local homeless center, etc.) Then we had performances from the singers, and also from our dancers, who were dressed up like convicts and did a choreographed dance with shovels to a song from Holes. We had arranged an interview with him and a local middle schooler the day before, so we had her introduce him. After his talk, kids rushed to the microphones so they could ask him questions…so many, in fact, that we ran out of time, and had to tell the rest of them to ask their question in the signing line.
All in all, he saw around 1,000 people in two days, and we sold over 1,000 books this fall, 600 of which were given to 18 different schools to distribute to at-risk students. We had around 25 schools participate in some capacity, and had a great response from the community about the program. I’d say it was a huge success!
A HUGE thank you to Little Shop of Stories for the amazing job you are doing in your community to promote reading! And a special thanks to Krista for agreeing to share your story with our readers!