I wanted to hold a Lexicon launch event that would benefit an educational charity. Among several candidates, I chose two. The first was Raising Readers, a charitable program established by the Libra Foundation in Maine. Raising Readers gives twelve books to every child born in Maine over the course of the child's first five years. Books go home with the baby from the hospital, and at every well-child visit, the pediatrician hands out a new book with a parental prescription to read aloud to the child.
My second chosen non-profit was Breakthrough Cambridge, which involves high school and college kids in providing intensive academic programming for middle school students to prepare them for a rigorous college-prep high school program. I had been a member of the program's first advisory board when it launched seventeen years earlier. I began working with the Breakthrough staff to find a time and a place for a launch event.
Meanwhile, I met with the Raising Readers team, including Kirsten Cappy, who designs book events through a company called Curious City. Very soon, Kirsten and I were designing a full book event with multiple stations of activities parents and kids could do together. Kirsten is a master of organization and of collecting needed items cheaply. Together we thought up the activities; Kirsten made sure they were child-friendly and located necessary materials. (The most expensive item was a full-sized mockup sign of Emily the Thesaurus, made in four pieces. She can be pulled apart for suitcase travel and then Velcroed back together when she reaches her destination.) We collaborated on the storyline of the event, which we began to call a "Lexicon Villages event."
In the end, we held the launch party, a benefit for Breakthrough Cambridge, at the Weston Community Center. (I had wanted to hold it in Cambridge, so kids from the program could attend. But we couldn't find a venue, and Breakthrough staff told us that with sports and other commitments, children's attendance would be low.) So family and friends helped me lay out a huge spread of Lexicon Villages activities. More friends and family came, and we raised over $650 for Breakthrough.
Only some months later, in spring, did I manage to arrange a benefit for Raising Readers. Kirsten and her volunteers staffed a great room in the Portland Public Library. Alas, it was a beautiful day, the first in months, and despite great publicity ahead of time, only a handful of visitors turned up. The rest, think, were playing outside. Raising Readers ende up making virtually nothing despite their hard work.
Nevertheless, as I have refined the Lexicon Villages event, it has proved flexible and always popular. Each time I hold an event, people approach me about trying it somewhere else, and although some of these leads fizzle out, I've managed to keep up a steady stream of events at schools, libraries, and special gatherings. For example, I just got an invitation to do a modified Lexicon Villages event at the Rain Taxi book festival in Minneapolis in October. This will be a great opportunity to be seen by book-loving parents and their children.
The very last step in putting together the Lexicon Villages events was uploading all the needed materials for a Do-It-Yourself Lexicon event on the website. This finally happened last week; here it is. Though a bit intimidating, the DIY guide should really allow a dedicated group to run their own event. If any of you try it, please let me know!