This year, Children’s Institute is going to Pittsburgh, and American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher is already predicting that the seventh annual kids’ conference will be “the best one yet.” He points to “the spirited input and participation from many indie booksellers.”
The 2019 conference is also on track to have higher attendance and more programming than its predecessors, with 28 educational sessions. This could be the year in which the institute reaches maximum attendance for the first time. Though it remains to be seen whether there will be growing pains, as there often are for seven-year-olds, by the beginning of June, 328 people had registered for the June 26–28 conference, which will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh–Green Tree—up from slightly more than 275 people in 2018. The conference can accommodate very few more attendees before it is full. And the number of educational offerings is also up, with a 100% expansion over the past two years, according to ABA senior strategy officer Dan Cullen.
From the earliest days of Children’s Institute, ABA has experimented with bringing booksellers to cities that are holding library shows or book conventions, including overlapping with the American Library Association’s annual June meeting more than once. This year, rather than colocate with the ALA, Children’s Institute will begin the day after ALA ends in Washington, D.C. Clearly, the decision to move the venue 240 miles northwest of the nation’s capital has not affected bookseller attendance. Author attendance is also high, with more than 65 participating writers and illustrators at signings and on educational panels. Keynotes include talks by actor and activist Alyssa Milano, National Book Award– and Printz-winner Elizabeth Acevedo, and bookstore owner Ann Patchett, the bestselling adult author and newly minted children’s author.
Author Maggie Stiefvater, whose latest novel, Call Down the Hawk (Scholastic Press), is due in the fall, will be a featured guest judge at the welcome reception and opening night costume party with backlist characters, which was introduced last year to great success. Other Scholastic authors will be participating in the press’s annual after-party on “The Power of Story.” Glory Edim, founder of the Brooklyn-based book club Well-Read Black Girl and editor of an anthology of the same name published by Ballantine, will give a workshop on Friday. ABA is partnering with Edim to bring book club meetings to indie stores across the nation and amplify diverse voices and support emerging writers of color. One programming track throughout the three-day conference is focused specifically on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Other conference highlights, Teicher says, include an Indies Introduce breakfast, a rep picks lunch presentation, and the first ABA Town Hall at a Children’s Institute. The opening day will feature both a full-day and half-day bookstore tour; a full-day Events University, led by booksellers experienced in bookstore event management; and the first Quidditch match at any institute. The local team, the Steel City Quidditch Club, will assist novice players, and brooms will be provided.
In addition to the educational offerings, Teicher notes that booksellers “will find more opportunities to share success stories, insights, and their commitment for expanding a diverse community of young readers.” He adds, “This year’s event is nothing if not well-rounded.”
The institute will close on a local note with a screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the acclaimed documentary about Pittsburgh native son Fred Rogers.