The Force will be with more than 1,200 bookstores and libraries across the U.S. on Saturday, October 6, when they will host events in commemoration of the first-ever Star Wars Reads Day. An initiative of Lucasfilm and its publishing partners, the event marks the first time that the franchise’s publishers have banded together for such a broad-reaching venture. Participating publishers include Abrams, Chronicle Books, Dark Horse Comics, Del Rey, DK, Klutz, Random House Audio, Scholastic, Titan Magazines, and Workman.

Star Wars Reads Day events will feature a range of activities, including raffles, giveaways, trivia contests, and book signings. Select celebrations will include appearances by authors and artists who have created Star Wars books for either the children’s or the adult market – or both. Among the 30 expected to attend an event are Tom Angleberger, Dave Dorman, Jason Fry, Pablo Hidalgo, Steven Melching, Matthew Reinhart, and Ryder Windham. Nearly 1,000 volunteers from fan-based costume organizations, among them the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion, will guarantee appearances by Star Wars characters as well.

In order to extend the reach of the celebration, NBC’s Today Show Charitable Foundation has signed on as the official charitable partner. Each participating publisher has donated Star Wars titles from its list, and the foundation, which provides gifts to underserved children and teenagers nationwide, will distribute the books to its affiliate organizations.

The ball for Star Wars Reads Day got rolling at BEA last June, says Rachel Kempster, DK’s director of marketing and publicity, who, with Carol Roeder, director of publishing at Lucasfilm, organized a meeting of six Star Wars publishers (others later joined in the venture). “We all agreed to be part of this, and set a goal to get 200 stores and libraries to join in to host an official event,” Kempster says. “Within 24 hours, we’d reached that goal. And then Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million signed up to participate chain-wide, and it all snowballed out of control – in a very cool way.” Online outreach, which included e-mail blasts and social media participation, helped spread word of the event, which publishers also promoted this summer at San Diego Comic-Con and ALA.

Expecting to welcome more than 100 Star Wars fans on Saturday to the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., is bookseller Justin Colussy-Estes, whose store will also host some well-known guests. “We’re going to have Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and several stormtroopers here,” he says. Also attending the event is actress Ashley Eckstein, who voiced the character of Ahsoka Tano in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie and TV series. “We’ll have a lot of activities for kids, including an origami station, to tie into Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books,” he says. “One of the great things about Star Wars is that it appeals to multiple generations, and it’s wonderful to see parents and their children share the reading experience.”

Ryder Windham, whose 60-plus Star Wars books range from early readers to coffee table tomes, has helped organize an event at the Rochambeau branch of the Providence (R.I.) Community Public Library. In conjunction with librarian Tom O’Donnell, Windham has put together a Star Wars Read Day event with an additional angle: it will be a blood drive as well as a reading promotion.

“I am an avid blood donor, and I want to let kids know – without hitting them over the head – how important donating blood is,” Windham says. “Star Wars publishers have generously donated books and other items, which we will be giving out to families who come to the event. I am thrilled that this will bring together fans for a good cause.” And, with an anticipated 20 costumed members of the 501st Legion joining in, Windham adds, “it will be a very good time!”

Kempster emphasizes the uniqueness of Star Wars Reads Day for its ability to pull together so many fans of all ages – and so many publishers. “The activity kits we created are definitely kid-oriented,” she says, “but stores and libraries will have activities for adults, too.” She adds that the various publishers all played nicely together: “It’s hard to get too competitive you’re talking about Wookiees! While there is some crossover, we all have our own Star Wars publishing niche. It helps all of us when anyone succeeds. And we all know that there are plenty of Star Wars fans out there – and that they definitely buy books.”