If you happen to be in Montclair, New Jersey on a Saturday morning, stop in at Watchung Booksellers and you will find the children’s area abuzz with the happy sound of children enjoying the Saturday Morning Author/Illustrator Storytime Series. These popular weekly gatherings are organized by Liane Freed. Easygoing and friendly, Liane clearly loves her job and has a knack for getting kids excited about reading. In addition to Saturday storytimes, she also organizes weekly Mommy and Me storytimes. She’s here today to share some tips for successful author/illustrator readings and signings at bookstores. Welcome, Liane. Let’s get started.
LAURA: Your Saturday Morning Author/Illustrator Series has a consistently good turn out. What do you think is the secret to its success?
LIANE: A huge part of our success is that we have a community that supports us and values the joy and importance of reading to their kids. Another reason is that we are able to get wonderful authors and illustrators to participate in our series. This support from our community and the authors in the NJ/NY area is a major benefit. We actually started our Author/Illustrator Saturday Morning Storytime Series as a way to thank our customers, big and little.
LAURA: The author and illustrators you host each have their own styles of presenting. What are the characteristics of the most memorable storytimes you have ever hosted?
LIANE: I love how each presenter’s style reflects their unique personalities. There are so many different ‘best story times’ but they all include more than just the author reading their own book. We’ve had authors add music, props, crafts, and even performances to the presentation. One author’s book was about ballet dancing so we had dance students from a local dance studio demonstrate ballet moves. Then the kids even had the opportunity to try out some of the moves. They had so much fun.
Something as simple as having the kids repeat words and sounds from the book adds greatly to any storytime presentation.
It is also wonderful when authors will read their favorite picture book along with their own book. The kids love this, especially if it is a book that they are familiar with.
Authors who are also illustrators have a huge advantage during storytime because they can do drawings with the kids. It is magical to watch the characters from the book being created with just a few lines of a sharpie.
One of the best presentations by an author/illustrator was when he drew a story from the kids’ suggestions. The kids loved it and I loved hearing their constant giggling. Another illustrator added a short ‘drawing workshop’ to his presentation. He had the kids draw a face with just simple shapes. The kids could not believe what they were able to create.We once had an illustrator draw portraits of all the kids for them to take home. From the looks on their faces you knew they all felt very special.
It also adds to the success of the storytime when an author can team up with the illustrator.
As you can see, there are so many ways to enhance a simple story time so that it is a memorable event for the kids.
LAURA: Do you have any tips or recommendations for a successful storytime to offer first-time presenters?
LIANE: I like to tell first time presenters that doing storytime is like putting on a show. Not just any kind of show but a show for kids. So, what does this mean? This means that one should be animated and silly and just have as much fun as one can have. That is one of the key things, have fun!! If the presenter is having fun then chances are the kids will have fun too.
LAURA: How do you feel about including crafts as part of the storytime experience? Any advice for which types of crafts work best?
LIANE: Crafts are a wonderful addition to any storytime. Our space is small so the best type of crafts are easy and tidy ones with few pieces involved. Stickers are a wonderful thing to use, you do not need glue or tape that can get messy and do damage to merchandise in the store. Before bringing in a craft the presenter should check with the bookstore to see if they have space for that kind of activity.
LAURA: Is there a final question you wish I had asked? If so, please share. =)
LIANE: I would just like to add that an author should never be too disappointed if there is a small turn out or few sales at the event. Obviously the author and bookstore would rather have a large turn out and many sales but we have noticed that there is an increase in sales of the book after the event. Doing an event is not just a fun morning with the kids but a huge marketing tool. Customers who were unable to attend often come into the store after the event and ask about the book that they knew was being featured that weekend at storytime. It is not just a storytime but a way to market an author and their book. In advance of a storytime we post the event in our newsletter, on our website, on Facebook and Twitter. The event can also get picked up by local media. It is a win win for the author and the bookstore.
Saturday story time is one of my favorite times of the week. And I just want to thank you and other authors who have come to Watchung Booksellers. Our NJ/NY authors along with our customers, are all a part of our bookstore community.
LAURA: And thank YOU, Liane, for stopping by. This has been a very special, informative time together.
Press HERE to learn more about the Author/Illustrator Storytimes and other programs at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ.