Conversations I’m involved in at western gatherings invariably include discussions around the challenges of engaging more young people in the preservation effort. Questions arise about how we can do a better job of teaching the importance of protecting museum collections, how to educate more children about the pioneer’s contribution to our culture, and how to enlist young people in carrying the flame of the cowboy’s campfire into generations to come. I believe Western author, J.R. Sanders, has hit upon a key solution to address this challenge.
It all started when J.R. went into a book store last year, looking for western books, and was sorely disappointed with how few were on the shelves. However, as any good cowboy would, J.R. devised a way to turn his initial disappointment into personal action. He approached his local Barnes & Noble bookstore with what can only be characterized as a win/win proposition, and last year, on the National Day of the Cowboy, he hosted his first ‘Read em Cowboy’ book fair for youth at the Redlands, California, Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
J.R.’s event was so successful and the kids who attended it had such a wonderful time, that this year he’s expanding it, noting that his 2012 Read em Cowboy will feature, “Nearly a dozen Western authors signing books and giving talks (including Roy and Dale’s daughter, Cheryl Rogers), a short story contest sponsored by the Western Fictioneers – with prize money being awarded, children’s authors doing readings and other activities with kids, a short story contest for yount writers, and a cowboy/cowgirl costume contest for the youngsters.” Along with the authors, there’ll be live cowboy music on Friday night by Dave Stamey and NDOC volunteer, Ms. Belinda Gail. J.R has also lined up rodeo queens, roping demonstration, raffles, cowboy vittles, and much more. His REC activiities will begin on Tuesday, July 24, with a different focus and location each evening.
Wow! It’s exciting to see the incredible potential Read Em Cowboy holds; Kids are encouraged to read and write books – western books! Kids are exposed to cowboy music and cowboy poetry! Young people will learn more about their own heritage and history and they’ll have fun doing it.
Can it get any better than that? Believe it or not, the answer is “yes” it can. J.R. and I heard from 5 more people willing to to ramrod a Read em Cowboy event in their own community on the National Day of the Cowboy (July 28, 2012). Check out our events calendar for Read Em Cowboys in Santa Clarita, California (Julie Ream), Dubois, Wyoming (June Bonasera), Spearfish, South Dakota (Francie Ganje), and Garland, Texas (Liz Lawless & Brady Wilson).
Also, Barnes & Noble has created a voucher so that anyone who uses it to make a purchase between July 28 and August 2, 2012, either in a B&N store or online (www.bn.com/bookfairs ), B&N will donate a percentage of that sale to the National Day of the Cowboy! J.R. has also created a Read em CowboyFacebook page, and you can print the B&N NDOC purchase voucher from there.
J.R. was thrilled with the results of his Read em Cowboy last year and we truly want to see more of them take place going forward, so if you would be interested in hosting an event like this in 2013, send J.R. or me an email and we’ll share some pointers with you as to how to approach it.
If you’ve ever heard yourself say, “Kids just aren’t interested in the cowboy anymore,” I suggest to you that our ”Read Em Cowboy” project is an excellent opportunity for YOU to personally change that mindset.