Lee-Ann Galli: [00:00:00] You are listening to Rhody Radio, Rhode Island Library Radio Online.
Lee-Ann: Hello. My name is Lee-Ann Galli, and I am the Youth Services Coordinator at the North Kingstown Free Library in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. What we're going to be discussing today is the We Are All Readers event happening on April 1st at North Kingstown High School, and also some other fun activities that are going on prior to the event. We hope to see you on April 1st, and hopefully, you'll do some of the activities that are happening around the state beforehand. Thanks so much.
Lee-Ann: The We Are All Readers was created as a positive response to some negative things happening actually in North Kingstown. It expanded out to include the whole state at this point, I think, this year. You can find out more at weareallreaders.com. The big event is on April 1st at the North Kingstown High School. Yes, April 1st. I swear it's not April Fool's Day joke, April 1st.
We have a Beanstack Reading Challenge hosted off the North Kingstown Beanstack. It's nklibrary.beanstack.org. We are encouraging people to read the featured authors, which you can find a whole list of featured authors. They are the authors that are going to be there on April 1st, as well as the authors who are doing virtual school visits and go out and do the StoryWalks that are going to be at the libraries. I think we have 12 libraries this year. Right, Melissa?
Melissa: I think there's [00:02:00] 15 total.
Lee-Ann: 15, right.
Melissa: They're not all libraries, and then we've got a couple of schools in there.
Lee-Ann: Public libraries and school libraries. Every time you go and either read a book or visit the StoryWalks, you get a virtual ticket, and then you can also write reviews to get a virtual ticket. If you go to the event, you also get another virtual ticket. Then if you go to the North Kingstown Library, you can see the raffle baskets live and in person for your prizes, but then we also have pictures in this side. Take a look and see the fantastic prizes that Jeanette was able to gather for us. I don't know, Melissa, if you want to add to that.
Melissa: Sure, yes. This year especially, my biggest part of it has been working with the StoryWalks, which Lee-Ann is also part of that subcommittee. That was my brainchild last year. As a response, I should give some background information. Last year when this all came about for the first time, it wasn't supposed to be a big giant event. It was initially just a local author, Jeanette Bradley, who lives in East Greenwich, wanted to do something to respond to these local book bannings that were popping up in schools like Lee-Ann mentioned, especially in North Kingstown.
She reached out to local librarians that she knew to start and some other local authors and illustrators and said, "Hey. Could we do something with the libraries to host some sort of event? I don't know whether it'll be a panel, or a story time, or what. Is there something that we could do?" Many of us obviously were like, "Yes, we would love to do something."
However, last year, COVID was very different than it is this year, and we were still very limited with what we could offer and what we could promise, and what we could commit to, because I know I was still doing all outdoor story times. The problem with an outdoor story time is, if it rains, it's done. [00:04:00] I already had a StoryWalk set up, and I said, "If I can't do an event, I'd be happy to promote some books through the StoryWalk."
Then as an event came, formed, the first We Are All Readers event was formed, we decided that we would use the StoryWalks as a lead-up to it. Last year, we had, I believe six, because it was brand new, we were keeping it fairly local. There were six StoryWalks. We only put them up the week before the week leading up to the event. This year, like Lee-Ann has said, we've expanded it to around 15. It could be 14 or 15, I believe, libraries and schools that are participating in the StoryWalk, and they've expanded throughout the whole state.
We're hoping, hopefully, by the time this podcast is out, they'll be set up throughout at least most of March so that people have more time to try to check out the StoryWalks, because the one week was a little too tight, especially if a lot of families may only be able to make it on the weekends to look at a StoryWalk. We're hoping to have them spread out for longer leading up to the event to build anticipation. We also try to feature a lot of the authors that are going to be at the event this year so they can get a preview of some of the people that they might want to come and meet. It's really exciting.
Lee-Ann: Anyone listening, if you're like, "What is a StoryWalk?" We did do an episode where we talked about StoryWalks and some of the StoryWalks that we've set up here in Cranston. We will link that episode in the show notes so that you can learn all about StoryWalks. Like you said, so the StoryWalks are meant to be leading up to this event building anticipation for the April 1st event, and they should be all set up by the time people listen to this episode. Can people find all of the participating libraries where they can visit the StoryWalks on your website?
Melissa: Yes. There is a list. There's a page on our website that specifically just talks about the StoryWalks. It has [00:06:00] addresses for all the participating locations. What I would recommend is if there's somebody that's looking to attend a StoryWalk, to maybe check in with those libraries first, because everybody is able to do different things. I know there are certain libraries that might have an indoor StoryWalk, which would be great if it's raining.
If you're looking to do something, there are certain libraries, like I know ours, and it says so on the website. Ours is offsite, so ours is able to stay up all the time. Some libraries might have to take it down if they don't have somebody just supervising it. I would recommend following up just to make sure you don't show up somewhere and it's not exactly what you were expecting.
If it's a local library, absolutely check it out. Like I said, we've got some all over the state this year, so even if you can't make it to one that's on the other end of the state, you should hopefully be able to find something that's closer to you.
Lee-Ann: Can we talk a little bit more about what's going to be happening April 1st, and why people should join you all at the We Are All Readers festival?
Melissa: There is so much happening on April 1st. We have in-person author talks. This year, there will be food trucks. I think we got Willie's Fried Bread that goes with the StoryWalk that will be happening at the Maury Loontjens Library. There's a Fried Bread StoryWalk there. There will be activities in the cafeteria from all sorts of places. I believe Tomaquag is going to be there again this year, Imagination Factory, Creative Harbor Arts.
Last year, that place was like controlled chaos. It was lovely, but I was not going in there. [chuckles] There is a bake donation. I'm going to say bake donation because it's not really a big sale. The kids [00:08:00] baked all sorts of goodies, but because they don't have a food license, you could donate however much money you would like. It actually made a really decent amount of money last year. It was fantastic. Those goodies were delicious. I brought them home.
Wakefield Books is going to be selling books from the authors at the event. I think the first 300 get a free book that come in. We're going to do the raffle there. The winners will be picked at the event, though you don't have to be present to win, but we would like you to be. Right now, it's a blur, so I don't really-- Melissa, do you remember anything else that I'm missing?
Melissa: I think you got it all. I didn't work the event last year. I brought my kids briefly. Like I said, my kids are on the younger side. They were two and four last year when I went. It was a little much for the two-year-old, but the four-year-old had a blast for what we were able to allow her to stay for without the younger one losing patience. Yes, they did crafts. They got to make the bookmarks last year. They sat in for a story time and a talk with one of the authors. We set up a spot for kids to sit and just read and cushy chairs and whatnot, if they just needed a break. It's fantastic, honestly.
I know at East Greenwich, I have lots of patrons come in afterwards talking about what a fabulous event it was, and how excited they were to bring their kids, and how close to home it was. I think it's definitely been a positive experience. It's made a lasting impact. That's why we're back for another year bigger and better.
Lee-Ann: It was the same day as North Kingstown's Easter egg hunt, and we still had 250 people come. We were fighting a big event for the town too and we still had people. We didn't realize, I think it was a rain date for the Easter egg hunt, so it ended up, [00:10:00] and we still had that many people. For our first year was fantastic. We were so pleased. We were only supposed to do it for one year, and then all of the authors were like, "No, no, no. You have to do it again." Now, we're still getting more authors contacting Jeanette and saying, "We are going to do this again next year, right?" so now we have to do it again.
Melissa: That's right. I mentioned the patrons' positive feedback, but we really got a lot of positive feedback from the participating authors last year, which is amazing considering we had no idea how we were doing.
Lee-Ann: You guys already talked a little bit about the reason behind it was a positive response to a lot of challenges that have been happening in the library space, whether that be public libraries or schools, but it seems like the goal of We Are All Readers festival is really to highlight diverse titles and diverse creators, and allow children to be able to connect with people who maybe look like them or don't.
Melissa: Yes. We wanted to create events and activities that-- Just like the name of the event, We Are All Readers, it's not anti anything. It's quite the opposite of what we are. We are trying to say that there is a book out there for every kid, every type of kid, every family, every culture, and it's important for everybody to find themselves in a book. Yes, the diversity aspect is 100% the foundation of We Are All Readers.
It goes back to a lot of these conversations that as librarians we've had with the Windows and Mirrors. It's set in North Kingstown. North Kingstown isn't known for diversity. We have it, [00:12:00] but it's not Providence, it's not Cranston. A lot of these kids, they might be reading something that they aren't necessarily exposed to every day, so it's just developing more empathy at a younger age, which is-- Where's the bad in that? It's just being able to just be exposed to more and more good things, more and more different things. It's in a positive light. Everything is positive that we're doing. There's no negativity in this space.
Lee-Ann: I really appreciate that because I think a lot of the conversations around book challenges sometimes can really be negative from both sides, either the sides that are asking for these books to be removed because of all of these things that they view as negative in them, or on the other side of vilifying the people who are calling for these books to be censored.
I appreciate you guys entering the conversation in a really positive light, because I think that's where we're going to get the most traction with the most people. Is there anything else that either of you want our listeners to know about the Beanstack challenge leading up to the event, or the event itself before we wrap up?
Melissa: I just want to let everybody know that you do not have to be in North Kingstown to join the Beanstack challenge. The way Beanstack works is that anybody that has a Beanstack can join that challenge. You just have to go through and set up another-- What's the word I'm looking for?-- profile, if you will, for the North Kingstown one, [00:14:00] just the way Beanstack hosts.
Please check out the website, weareallreaders.org, because you will find all of our fantastic authors and other events that are happening offsite. Creative Harbor Arts, I believe, is doing a few things. You can also just see who's coming and who is doing some virtual school visits, which is really, really fantastic. Last year, we had an author come in to a school who hadn't had an author visit in-- I think it was 20 years, which was just unfathomable to us as librarians and authors that are on committee. Yes, just check out our website. The artwork is one of Jeanette's children. Shout out to Kaz. Yeah, so stop by our StoryWalk.
Lee-Ann: I think we missed the most important part. Best part for last, attending the festival on April 1st completely free.
Melissa: Completely, totally free. Just get your ticket on Eventbrite just so we have an account for these things.
Lee-Ann: Thank you so much for listening. Be sure to check out weareallreaders.com to find out where the StoryWalks are, find out which authors are visiting, and other fun things as well as some sponsorship and donation opportunities. Rhody Radio is proud to be a resident partner of the Rhode Island Center for the Book, and brought to you by library staff and community members all around the ocean state.
This episode was made possible in part by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the Nation Endowment for the Humanities. The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders.
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