Lisa Nehs of Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, has figured out a way to turn a traditional storytime into an event that not only showcases books, but also one that requires more than one visit from the customer.
“I called it my Animal Party Sleepover,” she explains. “I pick out books that would be good bedtime books, but that usually feature animals as the main character. Sometimes they’re really silly, and sometimes they’re sweet. I make a mix of stories and I tell them all to bring their stuffed friends along.”
While the kids are at the storytime, they create a craft with the stuffed animal in mind–like little blankets for the stuffed animals, or matching hats for the stuffed animals and kids to wear. Then after the stories are read and the crafts are crafted, the kids go home, but the stuffed animals get to spend the night in the bookstore.
“And so once they all leave the store then I get all the animals together and I put them in different situations doing all kinds of silly things; sometimes it’s playing on the computer or sitting down by a puzzle,” she says. “I get them together and prop books in front so it looks like they’re all reading the story together.”
When the kids come back the next day to pick up their stuffed animals, they get to see, through photos, everything their stuffed animal did at the party–like that year they had a pizza party and soda and started climbing on everything–or which books they read through the night. And here’s the part I really like: they have to search around the bookstore to see where their stuffed animal fell asleep.
The party pics are mounted on a board so customers can enjoy looking at them, and Lisa is considering sharing the photos digitally through social media.
“I mostly have them for the kids and their families when they come and pick them back up, but we leave them up for a while so that other people can look at them and laugh,” she says.
Lisa has hosted the Animal Party Sleepover for three years. It is an expanded version of the store’s regular storytime, which are themed and take place monthly. They promote the special event through word of mouth, display, window signage, the store’s regular advertisement and at the storytime event the month prior. Books & Company does not charge customers to attend storytime events.
“It’s all free, so I try to keep it as inexpensive as I can,” she says. “Usually the families all end up making purchases that night anyway when they come in.”
Most of the kids who attend the Animal Party Sleepover are between the ages of 4 and 7. And sometimes it’s difficult for them to leave the stuffed animal they sleep with every night, so Lisa tells them ahead of time that they can bring their second favorite.
I love this idea because of the books you can showcase, the customer engagement, but best of all, the staff gets to go home.