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Book or Treat!

book-or-treatI hand out books every Halloween. I fill a table in my foyer with books from all genres and for all age levels. As each group of trick-or-treaters comes to my door, I offer books in addition to a bowl of candy. I’ve learn many lessons after years of “Book or Treat”; here are some recommendations in case you’d like to try it yourself.

Stand back and let kids select their own books

As a librarian and a bookseller, I’m used to offering opinions and guidance on what books to read. On Halloween, however, I let the choice of what book to pick belong completely to the kids. I offer guidance if someone asks for a specific type of book; otherwise, I stay relatively silent. This has resulted in teenagers selecting board books and preschoolers picking up novels (both of which sometimes end up with younger or older siblings.) More importantly, though, I think it stops me from being a gatekeeper and allows the kids to choose what appeals to them the most.

Always have candy available

Not every child wants a book, can decide on one quickly, or is intrigued with the books I have. The candy is there so that they don’t leave disappointed.

Explain to parents

The first year I did this, I got a lot of funny looks from parents when I invited their children into my foyer. Now, if I see a parent waiting outside my door, I always tell them that I have books available and am letting their child choose one. I’ve also added a small selection of books for adults in case they want to pick a book themselves.

Presentation is important

I don’t put all the books out at once. I start the night primarily with picture and board books on display because younger children tend to trick-or treat first. As the night goes on, I add in books for older kids. However, I always have extra boxes of books under the table for teenagers, in case they arrive early in the evening.

Include all genres

I try very hard to put many different genres into my book display. I find graphic novels, sports books, and nonfiction are requested frequently and disappear quickly.

Where do I get the books?

I happen to be a bit spoiled in this respect. As a book buyer and frequent book award committee member, I often find myself drowning in books and galleys. However, the books don’t have to be new. Anyone can do a Halloween book giveaway with gently used books. I also put aside books throughout the year that I think will make good giveaways.

Our house has become known as “The Book House”

This has really surprised me. Over the years, I’ve been amazed at the number of kids who arrive at my house looking forward to selecting their book. Parents have told me their children always make sure to stop at my house, even if it means a detour. The most amazing part of all is when kids come up to me at my children’s school or a neighborhood event — sometimes up to a year later — and tell me how much they appreciated the book they got on Halloween. I have been overwhelmed with thanks for such a simple gesture.

Why do it?

I think a book will last much longer than candy. But primarily, I give out books because I think it’s important for every child to have a library of their own. It has turned into one of my very favorite traditions.

where-the-wild-things-are-pumpkin

Susan Kusel About Susan Kusel

Susan Kusel is the librarian at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia, the children's book buyer and selector for [words] bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey, and the owner of Dream On Books, a children's book consulting company.

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Comments

  1. Great post! I’ve been doing it for three years now. Most of my books come from myself or my kids (we’re not big on re-reading), ARCs from publishers, library book sales/bookswap sites, and the Scholastic warehouse sales. We give out candy too. I set up two tables in our outside foyer, one with PB thru Early Chapter and the other for MG & YA. Yes I do find it interesting when teens go for the board books. I would love to know what’s the appeal.

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