Last year’s Children’s Institute, held in Pasadena, Calif., took a big leap forward in programming and attendance. Publishers and booksellers commented at the time on the growing importance of this kids-oriented conference, which has become part of ABA’s annual lineup over the past three years. (The first conference took place concurrently with BookExpo America in 2012.)
The 2016 CI, to be held June 21–23 at the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive, will be even larger than last year’s. Bookseller attendance is up 13%, from 190 in 2015 to 215 this year, and slightly more authors are coming as well. More than 50 ABA members will be attending courtesy of Baker & Taylor, 38 publishers, and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which provided scholarships that cover the conference fee, a two-night stay at the host hotel, and up to $400 in travel expenses.
“I’m excited about how far this conference has come,” says Cindy Loh, U.S. publisher of Bloomsbury Children’s Books and Bloomsbury Spark. “The buzz during [last year’s] author signing session was especially energizing. It was inspiring to see so many bookseller-author connections being made in one place, as well as to meet the many new indie store owners who are bursting onto the scene. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting great books into the hands of kids. Having a forum that provides a direct dialogue between those who make that happen is invaluable.”
“My ABA colleagues Joy Dallanegra-Sanger and Matt Zoni—with lots of excellent input from our Children’s Advisory Council—have created a stellar schedule of sessions and panels,” says ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “We think this may be the strongest lineup yet at a CI of plenary speakers and featured talks, including those by Kate DiCamillo, Dave Barry, and Julia Alvarez.” Teicher promises three “very full” days. “We are confident that CI 4 will be engaging, productive, and fun,” he says.
The presentations, panels, and round tables at the heart of CI 4 will focus this year on such topics as literacy development, the summer reading slide, and best practices for author events. And, given the conference’s location near Walt Disney World, Disney Institute v-p and general manager Jeff James will speak about “Disney’s Approach to Business Excellence.”
In another featured talk, Dana Suskind, a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago and the director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, will introduce booksellers to the initiative, which is also the subject of her 2015 book, Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain (Dutton). Suskind’s goal is to promote greater talking and interaction between parents and young children, particularly in low-income families, in which kids hear on average 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers in their first four years, according to a study conducted in the 1980s.
As at Winter Institute, the opening reception will incorporate a backlist book swap, part of ABA’s ongoing effort to promote backlist. In a nod to ALA, there will be a joint ABC and ALA program on “Partnering with Your Local Library.” And at least one publisher is using CI 4 not only to launch new authors and illustrators or to reintroduce seasoned writers, but to mark a key anniversary. Barry Cunningham, publisher and managing director of Chicken House, is crossing the pond to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the imprint in the U.S. It has been part of Scholastic since 2005. The last night, Scholastic will also host its popular Meet & Treat After Party.
Below, more on Children's Institute 4.
Two-time Newbery Medalist DiCamillo on growing up in a town with no bookstore, and how important it is for kids to read in the summer.
The Pulitzer-winning humorist on writing for kids, and the trick to showing kids how reading is "less boring than math."
Alvarez discusses how writing poetry helped her through a period of intense grief in her life.
How independent booksellers and libraries are collaborating on programs to benefit kids and help out the bottom line.
Support from presses of all sizes has been key to CI's success, but this year even more small presses than usual will be at the conference.
Some high-profile writers and illustrators are attending events connected with this year's show. Here's a select listing of who'll be there, and when.