A few weeks ago, I hosted the first annual Gather Together and Read event.
It was such a fun morning and I’m already thinking about next year’s – I’m definitely planning to make this an annual event!
A few days before, Bart asked me, “Are you nervous?”
And I laughed because he knows me so well.
YES! I was nervous – this is the kind of thing that makes the introvert in me just want to hide under the covers.
But I kept reminding myself that I deliberately set the whole event up to be as easy as possible – my goal wasn’t to entertain everyone, but instead to create a space for families to read together for a little while on National Book Lovers’ Day.
We held it at a local park with big open spaces, but also massive trees that provided a lot of shade. The weather was perfect and I was so relieved because I’d been worried it’d be incredibly hot.
In the shade of one of the trees, we set up a chair for the authors and then a double half-circle of Gathre mats (which were extra handy because the ground was still a little wet from the morning sprinklers).
We also set up a welcome table with about 100 picture books – we had a little bluetooth speaker going with music and we set up the books in stacks so that every child could choose one to take home. Ella manned this table for most of the event and I got some very sweet notes afterward saying that she was anxious to recommend books or help young children decide on the perfect book for them.
Right at 10 a.m. families started arriving and it was so fun to see them bring in their own bags or stroller with books, find a spot to sit and start reading aloud. I felt like my heart was just going to BURST!
The event was 90 minutes long and every 20 minutes or so, we had an author reading.
First were Sarah Jane and Kenneth Wright, a husband and wife team that do the Lola Dutch books and they read the first two books aloud AND gave a sneak peek of the third Lola Dutch book coming out early next year (this was the first time they’d publicly shown it and it was such a treat to have them there – they were definitely a hit with the whole group).
Second was Angie Lucas who read three monster books, including own newly released book, My Big Dumb Invisible Dragon.
She did lots of interactive things including having the children roar like monsters and at the end, she pulled out a big stuffed dragon and the children loved coming up to pet it.
With the playground right next to where we were, many of the families gravitated there at the end while we packed everything up, and it was just such a wonderful successful event!
We gave away all but 1 book and it was so fun to see old friends and new faces there.
And seeing so many families making time on a beautiful summer reading to share a love of reading with their children? Well, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
If you have questions about hosting your own, let me know – I’d love to help!
Photos by Heather Mildenstein