The nation’s largest literacy celebration is about to get bigger. In an effort to attract more educators and boost school participation in Children’s Book Week, the Children’s Book Council and its charitable arm, Every Child a Reader, have developed a brand-new initiative designed to reach teachers, school librarians, and students. From November 4–10, the Fall Children’s Book Week will help extend the centennial anniversary celebration that kicked off this past spring.

“Over the years, I’ve heard from teachers across the country who wanted to participate in Children’s Book Week with their students, but found that late spring was a difficult time to be involved fully, due to end-of-year testing and schedules,” said Shaina Birkhead, associate executive director of the CBC. (CBW had traditionally taken place in the fall before officially moving to spring in 2008.) “We felt that the 100th anniversary was a perfect opportunity to honor the history of the program,” she added, “while also making it possible for schools to embrace the celebration with their students in a way many had not been able to before.”

Pizza Hut Supplies the “Dough”

To help subsidize the cost of this initiative, the CBC partnered with Pizza Hut, whose BOOK IT! literacy program aligns with the mission of Fall CBW. Sponsorship funds provided by Pizza Hut enabled the CBC to produce and distribute promotional materials, including an educator kit, poster, and historical timeline to all registered participants. “This also allowed us to expand our reach by opening location sign-up to Pizza Hut’s network of teachers and provide materials to this group as well,” Birkhead said. Currently, 783 locations are signed up to participate, with more than 190,000 students expected to celebrate. (Registration for Fall CBW is closed at this time.)

Carrying over the 100th anniversary theme of “Read Now, Read Forever” is Yuyi Morales’s poster, which serves as the focal point for the fall program . The newest version of the poster has been updated with the November CBW dates and has been printed in a smaller size for bulletin board displays. To date, 3,000 posters have been distributed.

The “Read Now, Read Forever” slogan also inspired the development of the Fall CBW educator kit, which is divided into three sections (past, present, and future) that mirror this year’s theme. Birkhead credits the kit for giving “teachers activities they can easily implement with their students, no matter their current curriculum.” Both group and individual activities are designed to encourage critical thinking and collaboration and promote artistic expression. Participating schools are also able to sign up for a “Draw a Poster” contest for a chance to win a box of books for their classroom or library.

Another helpful learning tool created especially for the fall program is a timeline depicting the history of CBW. The full-color classroom display contains information dating back to the program’s inception, complemented by illustrations from historian Leonard S. Marcus’s book 100 Years of Children’s Book Week Posters (Knopf). “We wanted to give context to the celebration, since it has both influenced and been influenced by the history of children’s literature in the United States,” Birkhead said. Notable milestones include the start of CBW in 1919, the 1953 presidential proclamation for CBW, and the reintroduction of a Book Week theme in 2017.

Future Celebrations

Looking ahead, the CBC plans to hold both spring and fall celebrations in 2020 and beyond. Birkhead is encouraged by the strong numbers that this year’s programs have yielded. “The sign-up for this fall proves that educators and others are more than excited to celebrate reading and books with students as often as they can,” she said. “We look forward to building up this fall celebration as we have done with our spring events over the past few years.” In addition to creating a new educator kit highlighting each year’s theme, the CBC team plans to brainstorm other resource ideas that support teachers and school librarians.