Hannah Lee Reports from Children’s Institute 4

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee from Main Point Books is a member of Binc’s Program Committee and serves as a member of the Diversity Task Force. The goal of the Diversity Task Force is to draw more people of diverse backgrounds into bookselling and to help those already in the industry to stay and excel.

Hannah attended Children’s Institute 4 in Orlando and presented on a panel on children’s nonfiction that was well attended. Here is Hannah’s report from the conference.

Dear Diversity Task Force

I came home exhausted but exhilarated by Children’s Institute.

I served on a panel on children’s nonfiction and I created the attached lists that may be of relevance to this task force, particularly the list of books of diversity.

My session was standing-room only, with 60 people seated at tables. Attendance was boosted by the data presented the day before by the Nielsen analyst on the phenomenal 40% growth in children’s nonfiction.

The Children’s Institute Authors

The big-name authors who spoke were Kate DiCamillo, Dave Barry, and Julia Alvarez.

They all gave touching, often humorous, accounts of their childhood and their lives as authors.

DiCamillo told about her first public speaking engagement, as the last-minute keynote speaker for a big local cultural event. Her honorarium of $200 was more than a week’s pay at the half-priced bookshop where she worked. She ran out of the venue, with the blue ribbon pinned on her chest denoting her as the keynote speaker like the “prized pig who’d ran away.”

I asked how was she able to tap into her childhood memories.  I called it a gift; she said it was an ever-present reservoir for her.

Barry spoke about the difference between adult audiences, who love to ask about the writing process, and children who ask, “how old was the crocodile who bit off Captain Hook’s hand” and offered candid remarks such as, “your arm pits are wet.” When told that he and the sponsor of my scholarship had both attended Haverford College, I befuddledly asked if he was also from Disney.

Alvarez spoke about growing up in a culture of oral stories whose grandmother thought reading was bad for one’s health, such that when she was seated next to the big-name cultural icon who spoke about being a life-long bibliophile, pitied him, declaring that she was an asthmatic as a child but had out-grown the affliction.

Dana Suskind spoke about her work, transiting out of the OR doing cochlear implants, on social and health intervention problems teaching parents to talk to their babies. By age 3, there is a 30-million word gap between children of poor families and children of professional parents, leading to a significant achievement gap.

Jeff James spoke about Disney’s approach to business excellence.

  • For booksellers: we have to turn every transaction into an interaction.
  • For leaders of all organizations (and parents too): every leader leaves a legacy, which is the aggregate of the stories they told over time.
  • For organizations: purpose trumps tasks.  There is a decision matrix, such that Disney touts safety over courtesy, “show,” and efficiency.
  • Disney’s purpose is: We create happiness…
  • One Chilean bank officer scoffed that there is an exciting purpose (for the low-level workers) for working in a bank. After working with Disney professionals, their purpose now is: “We help people achieve their goals.”

I attended sessions on stemming the summer slide in reading, building (and promoting) a Modern First Library for babies, partnering with libraries, and reaching reluctant readers.

They were all fruitful to me, and I contributed to the discussion at each workshop.


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