Children’s Institute will celebrate its first half decade in Portland, Ore., from April 5 to 7 at the Red Lion Hotel on the River, with its largest gathering of booksellers yet—about 250 booksellers, up from 215 last year. The 2017 conference will also feature close to 60 authors and illustrators, including a late addition to the program, Ilsa Govan, coauthor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, who will give the opening keynote address, titled “Hiring and Retaining a Diverse Workforce.”

Among the other programming highlights are an opening-night reception and backlist book swap at Powell’s City of Books, which is sponsored by Publishers Weekly; an analysis of children’s-book sales data with Allison Risbridger, client-development specialist at NPD Book; and a discussion with Marley Dias, the 12-year-old who launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign in 2015. Other sessions include how-tos on creating effective social media campaigns, growing backlist, and, for young booksellers who want to make bookselling their career, managing personal finance.

“Once again, ABA is very pleased to present an event where children’s booksellers can share best practices, participate in a number of educational sessions, and hear from a range of compelling speakers—all with the goals of growing the readership for children’s books and contributing to the success of independent bookstores. We’re looking forward to three great days in Portland—one of the best indie-bookstore cities in the U.S.,” says ABA CEO Oren Teicher.

For children’s booksellers, Children’s Institute has become an increasingly important part of their spring planning. Kelly Estep, buyer and store manager at Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, Ky., says that she regards the success of Children’s Institute as a reflection of the continued growth in the children’s market. “Having children’s-specific education—not just as a part of Winter Institute, but where the entire focus is shifted to highlight the authors, the customers we need to serve, and the community connections that are so important in this market—is an integral part of [Carmichael’s] growth,” she notes.

“After going to one, I was hooked,” adds Ellen Richmond, owner of the Children’s Book Cellar in Waterville, Maine. “Children’s Institute is so focused on kids’ books and sidelines. I learn something every year, which is part of the attraction.” Children’s-book specialist Sara Grochowski at Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Mich., is also drawn to Children’s Institute’s children-specific focus—and to the booksellers themselves. “I’ve attended many book-focused conferences—Winter Institute, the Heartland Fall Forum, BookExpo, and ALA,” she says. “But none have been so beneficial or, to be frank, enjoyable as Children’s Institute. The willingness and excitement to share favorite, must-have titles and innovative ideas is palpable.”

The idea for holding an educational event for children’s booksellers was conceived in the wake of the 2010 vote to merge the Association of Booksellers for Children with the American Booksellers Association and to create the ABC Children’s Group. Two summers later, in June 2012, the ABA held its first Children’s Institute in New York City, a daylong event that overlapped with BookExpo.

Following a brief hiatus, Children’s Institute returned as a full-fledged standalone educational conference. Like Winter Institute, its more-established sibling held earlier in the year, Children’s Institute went on the road. The first stop in 2014 was in San Antonio, Tex., just before the Texas Library Association’s annual conference. That was followed by CI 3 in Pasadena, Calif., where the institute overlapped with the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Last year, the conference took place in Orlando, Fla., prior to the American Library Association’s annual conference.

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Children's Institute 2017: Authors and Illustrators Who Will be at the Show

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