Wednesday, April 24, 2013

World Book Night 2013

Last night I set out to give away my 20 copies of Norton Juster's "The Phantom Tollbooth" as part of World Book Night.

My first stop, as I did last year, was at my local library.  Last year I gave away almost half of my copies of Kate DiCamillo's "Because of Winn Dixie"to kids there--kids who were amazed someone wanted to give them a free book.  This year, however, I was told I couldn't give away books there. Something about no one being permitted to distribute materials in a public building or something.

I was disappointed, more for the kids than for myself.  Our local library attracts a lot of kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds who probably own very few books of their own.  Still, I figured I shouldn't have much trouble giving away free books.


Turns out I had forgotten something important that I wrote last year.  Something that is going to likely remain true until I'm even grayer and more bent-over than I am and take on that sweet old grandfatherly appearance:
"...There's something potentially creepy about a middle-aged man scouting out kids to approach, even if it's just to give away a book."
I made a point to talk to the parents first, explaining in a single sentence what was going on.
"It's World Book Night, the night when lucky people like me get to give away books for free."
Most parents were okay with the idea.  I think those that were suspicious thought I was peddling some kind of religious tracts.  (Which, to be fair, is what I would have thought if someone approached me saying they were giving away free books.)  The most suspicious person who took a copy remained suspicious until I actually walked away saying, "See?  No money.  It's all yours!"

A few interesting observations:
  • Mothers were more receptive to me than fathers.
  • Girls were generally more receptive to getting a book than boys.
  • The two people who said no were both male.  One was a father shut me down before I could finish my first sentence.  The other was boy who said no at least let me tell him what the book was about before saying no.
The Best Part:
  • Most parents liked the idea that they could read the book to their kids and enjoy it just as much as the kids.
I'm definitely signing up again next year, though I think I'll change my strategy for giving away the books though.  Scouting through grocery stores trying to find kids is just a bit too awkward for me.

Did you participate in World Book Night?  Which book did  you give away?  What was your experience like?

-- Tom