Welcome to the Curiosity Quills blog, Christine, and congratulations on Read With Me! Downtown Raleigh is lucky to be getting a place like that. Can you tell us a little about Read With Me and how it will serve your community?

Read With Me is a children’s book & art shop located in downtown Raleigh. Our downtown has been booming the past few years. There are lots of capitol attractions and fabulous restaurants. But there is definitely room for more family entertainment and retail. As a former school librarian and educator I wanted to take my passions and skills and use them to contribute to the city I love. I think that Read With Me will be a great compliment to the other family destinations, like ArtSpace and the museums. I want Read With Me to be a place where all readers, writers and illustrators feel at home.

 

Right now, Read With Me has an Indiegogo fundraising campaign going for another 30 days, to help you officially open in spring of 2017. You have a really impressive array of perks for donations. Can you tell us about your experience starting that campaign and how you came up with some of those perks?

We  love the idea behind crowdfunding and chose crowdfunding as a way to help raise necessary start-up expenses for the bookstore. It is fundraising on a larger scale. Crowdfunding has made it possible to raise funds that are otherwise unavailable to new, small businesses. Also, crowdfunding helps us to directly reach out to people in the community who are most interested in and find value in our business. Crowdfunding gives everyone a voice to say what they value in their community and to be actively involved in making their community better.

The being said, the process is not easy. The campaign was the first real exposure for our bookstore. It was difficult to find the right words and images to express everything we hoped and planned and dreamed for the bookstore. I wanted to make the perks meaningful “thank-yous” and tried to give our supporters a way to leave their mark on the store as well as be able to contribute in small and large ways. I was imagining supporters enjoying coming in to visit the store and see the books they helped stock to the Learning Lab that they helped build.

So far the campaign has over 70 backers and we appreciate each and every one. Thank you! Our goal is $50,000 and when we reach that goal, we will donate 500 books to a local literacy non-profit that puts books in the hands and homes of children who need them.

 

You mention hosting illustration classes, book clubs, and a workshop space. This sounds pretty amazing. Can you tell us more about how you’ll be developing the Lab and creating partnerships for these types of events?

Our mission is to bring children’s books to life through interactive experiences with the creative process of storytelling. We will have several workshops a day taught by local artists, writers and teachers. Former teacher Deanna Privette is working on a brilliant calendar of themed reading, writing and arts classes. There will be drop-in classes and a eventually an online calendar for registration. I invite other area writers and artists to contact me if they would like to come in and teach their craft, whether it is puppeteering or comic book creation. We want to give kids a unique creative outlet and we want to explore and celebrate storytelling in all of its forms.

 

In the shop, you’ll have art created by and for children. Kids love doing art, so we imagine it wouldn’t be hard to get them going, but could you talk about your process for that and what you envision for it?

In the shop, we will have 4 gallery spaces. I plan on reserving 2 for a youth artist and 2 for an adult artist. I also welcome youth artists to try out their entrepreneurial skills by selling their artwork in our shop. Read With Me will also participate in downtown Raleigh’s First Friday Art Walk, which will give exposure artists who might not otherwise receive it.

 

What plans do you have for marketing Read With Me and the Learning Lab? What do you foresee as the biggest challenges to marketing what you’re doing?

The biggest challenge in marketing for us is that there are limitless activities for families to participate in and how do I create a place where families choose to spend their time and money. One reason we chose our location was to be near Marbles Kids Museum so parents who visit Marbles can have one more enriching thing to do with their family while visiting downtown.

 

On your (very charming) Indiegogo page, you mention that “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis was your first “true love” reading moment — something I’m sure you have in common with many of our blog readers. Can you tell us about a few other works of children’s literature that you loved?

As a child, I was always reading The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin and Sweet Valley High, a novel series by Francine Pascal. It wasn’t until college when I was studying to be an elementary school educator that I discovered the depth of the children’s literature. There I fell in love with Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman and  J.K. Rowling.

I recognize that as a white, American suburban girl, it was easy to find stories that resonated for me. My goal as a children’s bookseller is to make sure that every child can find themselves reflected in a story and hear the stories from people all over the world.

 

Who are a few of your favorite illustrators from the books you read as a child? And who are a few illustrators working today that you think are incredibly talented and could use more attention?

Graphic novels, in general, are a genre that I plan on giving a lot of shelf space and attention to. I think graphic novels are too often overlooked and dismissed as “less than” traditional fiction. But graphic novels have a powerful accessibility and are far beyond other fiction in their depiction of diverse characters and situations. Dav Pilkey and Raina Telgemeier are tops.

 

What are three ways that parents can help their child grow up to be a reader and value reading? And how can a parent prompt interaction during reading time?

As an educator and now a parent, I love the phrase “show, don’t tell” and use it frequently. I value reading and I show my son that I do by visiting the library, owning books at home and reading together every night at bedtime. I also love to ask my son what his teacher read during storytime. It usually sparks a great, dramatic summary from him.

During reading, I like to point out similarities and ask questions. For example, “This dog is a builder just like your uncle” or “What do you think will happen next?” I think it’s important to stay engaged in what you are reading together so that comments and questions will happen more naturally.

 

We wish we could attend your pre-opening party! Can you tell us more about what you’re planning for it?

The pre-opening party will be a great way to say ‘thank-you’ to our supporters. It will be the first chance anyone will see the store completely decorated and stocked. We plan on having locally catered small-bites and treats as well as local beer for the adults. Anyone who donates $150 or more to the campaign will be invited and can bring one guest.

 

Thanks so much for answering our questions, Christine. We wish you the best of luck with Read With Me! If people would like to donate to your fundraising campaign, where can they go?
Thank you so much for the opportunity to be on your blog. Every small and large donation will help to bring more diverse children’s books and programming to our kids. Our IndieGoGo campaign can be found here: https://igg.me/at/ReadWithMeRaleigh

Read With Me, A Children’s Book & Art Shop is a children’s bookstore, art gallery and workshop in downtown Raleigh. We have a thoughtful selection of fabulous children’s books for readers aged 0-17. In our Creativity Corner, you or your child can develop writing and illustration skills. From book clubs to author and illustrator events, we look forward to helping your child grow to be a reader. Let’s reconnect through the artistry of children’s books. Read with a child every day, everywhere.