Excitement has been building for 2022’s Children’s Institute in Phoenix, especially after the previous two conferences slated for the Grand Canyon State were forced to move online and this year’s Winter Institute was canceled due to high Covid rates. Final registration figures were not available at press time, but 328 booksellers registered for the previous in-person Children’s Institute, held in Pittsburgh in 2019.

CI10 will be held June 20–22 at the Arizona Biltmore; it will be the American Booksellers Association’s first in-person conference since 2020’s Winter Institute in Baltimore. “After two years of isolation, this year’s Children’s Institute is destined to be remembered as one of the most significant events in our collective understanding of pandemic-era bookselling,” says Kim Hooyboer, ABA’s new director of education.

The 2022 Children’s Institute also marks more than a decade’s worth of expanded children’s programming created by ABA in the wake of its 2010 merger with the Association of Booksellers for Children. At the time, ABA executive director Oren Teicher said, “We at ABA see this vote [to merge] as an opportunity to be able to accomplish more to serve the present and future needs of children’s booksellers. We are confident that building on the thoughtful planning that led to the final vote, children’s booksellers will continue to have the resources and support necessary to grow and prosper.”

Since the very first Children’s Institute, held concurrently with BookExpo America in 2012, ABA has kept that promise. It paused the institute for a year to further refine it and turn it into a standalone educational opportunity, which pre-Covid was frequently co-located with state or national library shows.

Much of the programming at the 2022 Children’s Institute is similar to that of the past, starting with a tour of area bookstores: Changing Hands Bookstore, a large general bookstore and bar; Grassrootz Bookstore, Arizona’s only Black-owned bricks-and-mortar bookstore; and Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, which promotes cultural representation and diversity. The event officially kicks off with an opening night reception and costume party with booksellers encouraged to dress as favorite book characters. Other popular programming that will be back includes a talk on the U.S. children’s book market and trends to watch, presented by NPD Group books insights manager Brenna Connor, as well as an Indies Introduce lunch. Scholastic is also hosting an after-party the last night, which this year will focus on upcoming graphic novels and writers with Scholastic Graphix.

With close to 70 authors and illustrators attending this year’s conference, booksellers will once again have a chance to meet a number of bestselling authors in person, including Ibram X. Kendi (Stamped from the Beginning and the forthcoming Goodnight Racism) and closing keynoter Charlie Jane Anders (Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak), whose “Go Ahead, Dream About the Future” TED Talk garnered 700,000 views in its first week.

Diversity is a key component of the 10th-anniversary gathering. ABA is planning a celebration to mark Juneteenth (which became a federal holiday in 2021), commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. This is also the first institute to include a multiauthor Native American keynote. Danielle Greendeer (Keepunumuk); Cynthia Leitich Smith, author-curator of Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books; and Traci Sorell (Powwow Day) will discuss how reader awareness and shifts in publishing have affected the way they create new stories with Native characters at the center, and share stories of the past. There’s even a session—“You’re Speaking My Language”—on making stores more inclusive by stocking books in languages other than English. The institute will close with a Lotería and a drag queen story hour.

This year’s something-for-everybody programming is deliberate, with some educational events that are clearly designed for bookstore generalists, others for children’s specialists. As ABA CEO Allison Hill notes, “The conference has evolved into an event that everyone in bookselling can benefit from.” Among the educational sessions that she singles out as “robust and relevant” are a TikTok workshop and a BookTok session, a crisis communication workshop, and discussions about banned books and having challenging community conversations, making bookstores media ready, best practices for managing inventory, mental health and self-care, and financial benchmarking for maximizing profitability.

Hill calls children’s bookselling “the foundation of bookselling,” noting that “children’s booksellers create excitement for reading, support reluctant readers, amplify diverse voices, discover authors, and energize bookstores.”

That said, ABA education for children’s booksellers could be changing. Hill says that both Hooyboer and Gen de Botton, ABA senior children’s program and education manager, “will take a fresh look at Children’s Institute this year. They’re excited to think about how the event could evolve in the future.”

Read more from our Children's Institute 2022 coverage:

Children's Institute 2022: Bookselling in Arizona
The Grand Canyon State is marked by diverse bookstores, with many appealing to bilingual readers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Children's Institute 2022: Buying’s New Normal
Children’s book buyers adjust to supply chain issues and changes in reading preferences.

Children's Institute 2022: Supply Chain Issues Hit Sidelines, Too
Sales of jigsaw puzzles and games remain strong sellers, along with art supplies more than two years into Covid.

Children's Institute 2022: Community Service Helps Bookstores Thrive

A number of booksellers have rooted their businesses in community partnerships—and it's paid off for all parties.

Children's Institute 2022: Authors and Illustrators to Meet
More than five dozen writers and artists will be featured at Children’s Institute 2022.