Tuesday, April 24, 2012

World Book Night/Day 2012 Experience

Yesterday was World Book Night 2012 and it was so much fun to hand out books to people for free to promote a love of reading and to show support for libraries and bookstores around the US.  It started last year in the UK and Ireland for the first World Book Night, and this year the US was involved.  The response from people across the US was overwhelming!  Over 25,000 people handed out 500,000 books across the country to strangers to encourage a rediscovery of reading.  And the books were great!  30 different titles from so many publishers: The Stand, Peace Like a River, Little Bee, Ender's Game, The Book Thief, Because of Winn-Dixie,  and so many more excellent titles in a wide range of subjects.  To see the list, hit the World Book Night website.  Maybe you can set a goal to read them all before next year's grand event.  

This is how it worked:  you applied to be a "Giver" on the WBN website, and picked three titles you would like to hand out.  The WBN people confirmed you as a giver, and told you which book you would be handing out.  Each Giver received 20 copies of their book and picked them up at predetermined sites in their city.  My B&N was one of the pick up sites, and many independent bookstores and libraries across the US were also pick up sites.  So many places had Giver receptions and fun parties to celebrate this event.  My store had about 10 Givers pick up their boxes last Monday night, and they stayed to eat snacks and talk about why they picked their book and where they were going to hand them out.  We had one woman planning on standing in front of a local grocery store to hand them out, another was a school librarian who was going to hand them out at school.  Another Giver was teaming up with her daughter to hand them out to her daughter's friends, and another was handing them out to patients at a dialysis unit in one of our local hospitals.  So many great ideas!

So yesterday was the big day.  I had to work last night, so I had to give out my books during the day.  And what better place to hand out The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie than a local alternative high school here in Cedar Rapids.  Even better--a fellow co-worker had also picked that book, so we had 40 copies to give away to the students at Metro.  We went to Metro on their lunch break and walked around with one of the teachers while she pointed out kids she knew would love to have a copy of their own.  Many of the kids had already read the book, but were thrilled to have a copy to keep.  

Our first two recipients

"Pizza and a book!"

Fellow bookseller Kara, Me, and Mary from Metro School

The looks on their faces were priceless.  Many said "That is so cool!  I get to keep this?"  It was especially gratifying to give to these kids because so many are from troubled homes and attend Metro because it's the only place for them to finish high school.  I told them how many people across the US were giving out books, and that in our hometown of Cedar Rapids, there were 1,000 books being given away.  Yes, Cedar Rapids was one of the top 25 Giver Cities.  We are so proud of that--and this is mainly due to the extreme effort our CRM Amanda made to get the word out not only to our staff, but to customers and everyone she could find.  

Last night at our store we had a reception for Givers to come back and tell us about their experiences.  We didn't have much of a crowd, but those who came were glowing from their experience as a Giver.  Amanda and our manager, Diane, drove around to car dealerships and gave away books; Diane even stopped people on the street to hand out books.  Another employee was heading home to his apartment complex to hand out Ender's Game to fellow apartment dwellers.  A part time bookseller took a long lunch from her other job and drove to fire stations to gift books.  Jessica, another part time bookseller, was heading to the police department with her novels to hand out to the late shift staff.

What can I say?  I am surrounded by books every day I work.  I am a lucky person to be around something I love so much all the time.  It was a joy to be able to walk up to a person and say "It's World Book Night/Day!  Here's a book for you."  No expectations, no catch.  Just a free book.  No "I can get it cheaper online." No "I can only buy one book today."  No "My kid has to read a book for school and hates to read.  What do you suggest?"  None of that.  Just pure fun.  

If you would like to be a Giver next year, visit the World Book Night website and sign up for their newsletter.  I will definitely apply to be a Giver again in 2013!

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