Connecticut

One of the upsides of the internet is that you do find some amazing people out there. I’ve had the frequent experience of being in communication with people, who given half a chance, I would love to meet. So it was with some anticipation that I sat in RJ Julia’s bookstore waiting to meet Annabelle Howard in the town of Madison, CT.

I recognized her immediately as she came in and was quietly pleased she was wearing a blue velvet coat. This was going to be fun.

Annabelle founded Reading Without borders, which is a non-profit that uses Google+ communities to match volunteers with teachers making reading memorable, sociable and fun. It is a truly global exercise and there is room for anyone interested. I first saw her offerings where a couple of hundred kids participated online in an adaptation of Macbeth (Best you see it for yourself!).

Over coffee, we hatched plans for future collaborations and talked so long that we were eventually kicked out of the shop … after closing time. There will more on this coming; ‘Reading Without Borders’ that is, not the coffee shop.

Annabelle introduced me to RJJulia’s bookstore before I left home and I was fortunate to be invited to take part in the RJJulia festival of Children’s Literature at the Davis Street Arts and Academics School in New Haven. The other three authors this year were Jerry Craft, Tommy Greenwald and Farhana Zia.

The atmosphere was loudly upbeat, partially due to the fact this was a gym hall but mostly because it was filled with a large number of children. The children were plainly having a ball, and I got to meet plenty of them at the signing table. As someone who spends most on my working life quietly toiling alone in my studio hollow, I must admit to some trepidation when first attending festivals. However this whole experience was uplifting. The fact that it was so well organized and well supported made it even more special and I am very proud to have been a small part of it.

As always I find myself thanking many people but it was particularly heartwarming to see RJJulia walk the talk with their Read to Grow program. I have never signed so many books at one sitting before and it was wonderful to know these were destined for kids so deserving. Through RJJulia over 100,000 free books have been distributed to children across that state, directly and through partnerships with hundreds of community programs.