Books For Treats founder Rebecca Morgan began offering books to her ghouls and goblins at her home in Willow Glen (San Jose, CA) in 1995. She was frustrated at candy being the primary option for Halloween treats. She wanted an inexpensive treat the kids would like. She knew she could opt for small toys, but she wanted something that would make a difference to the kids and last more than a few days.
At her local library book sale Rebecca saw the boxes of gently read children's books for about what she was spending on candy. Aha! Since she was a bestselling author of business books she knew books had high value. "Plus," she jokes, "I'd be helping kids learn to read, which would ensure the next generation would be interested in buying books, maybe even mine!"
She bought dozens of books covering toddlers to sixth grade, sorted them by grade level and let her trick-or-treaters choose from among the age-appropriate books. Not having kids herself, she had to research and learn how to discern the grade and reading levels.
After 6 years, she saw the response was so overwhelmingly positive, Morgan decided to take the concept beyond her home and to the community. She started Books For Treats in 2001 to begin to turn the tide from problematic candy to a treat that, as she says, “Feeds kids’ minds, not their cavities.”
A turning point came in 2009 when Morgan approached Greg Evans, the creator of the "Luann" comic strip, about having Luann give books to her trick-or-treaters. Initially, Greg said he'd already drawn the Halloween strips even though it was only July. Then the next day he told Rebecca he'd decided to change the week's strips to include the idea of Books For Treats. Rebecca boldly asked if he'd include the Books For Treats URL, which he did! The week the strips ran, blogs and media outlets picked up the idea so tens of thousands of people visited the website and downloaded the free setup kit. This led to more people and communities offering book for treats in 2009 and beyond.
This movement has spread from her San José community to many others around the US and Canada. Books For Treats was recently given non-profit status so tax-deductible donations can now be used to help spread the word and assist other communities in starting a Books For Treats event. In 2012, the Canadian company Big Earth Media became the first international licensee and will take Books For Treats to communities across Canada.
Some naysayers tell Rebecca that she is stealing the fun of Halloween and ruining kids’ Halloween. “In fact, the contrary is true. Kids love books. Since they get to choose their book from the age-appropriate box, they are excited to have a treat that lasts more than a few seconds. I commonly hear, “We made sure to come to the book-lady’s house.”
She shares the kids’ reaction: “Kids run to the curb waving their hard-cover treat, saying, ‘How cool -- I got a book!’ Parents help pick out their kid's book and the kids compare books with their friends and offer to swap when they were done with it. I’d never had a kid raising a candy bar, running to the sidewalk yelling about it. I knew I was on to something.
“You can thrill kids with gently read books that cost about the same -- or sometimes less -- than the candy you've been throwing in those Jack-O-Lanterns,” Morgan says.
When asked what she thought of Books For Treats, seven-year-old Alana said, “I like books better than candy. A book lasts a long time and candy is gone in a bite! And I can sit on my daddy’s lap and read the book over and over with him.”
Rebecca Morgan is the author of 25 books, 2 of which have sold over 200,000 each. She's appeared on Oprah, 60 Minutes, NPR, USA Today and international media. She's a sought-after international speaker and management consultant, serving clients from major corporations to small entrepreneurs. She runs 3 businesses and this non-profit. Her business websites are http://www.RebeccaMorgan.com and http://www.GrowYourKeyTalent.com.