Colorado Big Summer Read

Colorado Big Summer Read

~Engaging Community through Books, Arts & Culture~

The Colorado Big Summer Read is a shared reading experience across the entire state of Colorado for all ages over the summer centered around a theme, and illustrated by a selection of books, author appearances, activities and discussions to create an immersive, interactive experience that will inspire further reading and conversation. The inaugural theme will be: EMPATHY. Everyone in Colorado is invited to participate. Any bookstore, public library, school, or business can help bring this experience to as many Coloradans as possible. (Email Kristen Gilligan for more info.) Founded by Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado.


  1. To encourage Coloradans to talk about specific issues using literature and the arts.
  2. To bring books to life and help readers envision a world of possibility through arts, culture, and reading.
  3. To bring together bookstores, public libraries, schools, businesses and the public over a shared issue.

Download a PDF of the flyer here!

Stay up to date! All program info will be included in our monthly Kids, Teens and General email newsletters (sign up for them here!), this webpage will always have the most recent info, and we'll send dedicated emails to the above email lists (Kids, Teens and General) about the program. 

Events! Please see below for event info. Each individual event has it's own registration page, even though the events are free to attend. Registration links can be found below next to the details for each event. 

The Program

This summer program includes six featured books, for preschoolers through adult; interactive social media events and in-store activities; featured bookstore events with participating authors and guests discussing the featured books, the issues, and how we can be more empathetic.

Featured Book & Author List


Create Wishtrees in bookstores, etc.; have customers write wishes and hang on tree. Create your own Wishtree in your community! 

Colorado Blue Bear

For the younger kids, some of the topics are edgy, even scary. Pulling out an overall theme, we find kindness, empathy, being welcoming, being inclusive. Focusing on these themes, we'd like to introduce a familiar Colorado icon, but with a new role...

Modeled after The Elf on the Shelf, Colorado's famous Blue Bear will act like a summer version of The Elf. Encouraging kids and adults to perform random acts of kindness, thinking outside of themselves, and The power this creates for both the giver and the receiver becomes palpable and something that can be passed along to the next person.

People will be able to submit photos and we'll publish them. In addition to publishing them on our website, at each event, we'll share a few!

Featured Author/Book-Specific Events

PICTURE BOOK Event: For grades Preschool - 2. Event Location: Tattered Cover Aspen Grove; Sunday, July 14 at 2pm

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (Illustrator)

This event will include a reading of the book, a discussion on empathy, and art activity and showcase, and a closing discussion. Great for Preschoolers - 2nd graders. The event is free, but you MUST REGISTER. (Please note: The author will NOT be there.)

MIDDLE GRADE: For grades 3-5. Event Location: Tattered Cover Colfax; Sunday, July 7 at 2pm

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

This event will include a discussion on empathy, a writing activity, a wish-making activity, and a closing discussion. Great for grades 3-5 (and older, too!) The event is free, but you MUST REGISTER(Please note: The author will NOT be there.)

MIDDLE SCHOOL: For grades 6-8 (and older!). Event Location: Tattered Cover Colfax, Thursday, July 11 at 6pm

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Explore the Power of Story with ALAN GRATZ & HELEN THORPE! In this interactive session, teens and their families will dive into the stories of the characters in Alan Gratz’s novel, Refugee. Alan Gratz and Denver area community members, including author Helen Thorpe (The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in America), will talk with guests and share their personal connections to the refugee experience. Attendees will have the opportunity to share their own stories with the Tattered Cover and the #COempathy community. This event is free, but you MUST REGISTER. (The authors WILL be there!)

RELATED EVENT! Saturday, June 15 from 6pm – 10pmSoiree Under the Stars: A Fundraiser for We Made ThisHosted by the African Community Center (ACC) of Denver at Graland Country Day School. A night of stories, music, and fundraising to celebrate We Made This, ACC's sewing and economic empowerment training program. Featuring live music from Edsel's Garage, a fashion show, international hors d'oeuvres, and cocktails. Silent and Live Auction (DONATE!). Henna art offered by refugee youth. ACC operates a reception and placement program through ECDC, the Ethiopian Community Development Council. Basic resettlement services are provided for up to 90 days, and case management and employment services may be provided for up to 5 years. Additional supportive services are provided through the generous contributions of partners, individuals, family foundations and former refugees. For more info, please visit the African Community Center (ACC) of Denver website. Tickets available here.

YA: For grades 9+ Event Location: Tattered Cover Colfax; Saturday, July 13, 2pm - 4pm

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

This event will include a discussion on empathy and how it relates to the book by author NIC STONE, a writing activity, and a closing discussion. Great for grades 9-12 (and older, too!) The event is free, but you MUST REGISTER. (Please note: The author WILL be there.)

ADULT FICTION: For adults. Event Location: Tattered Cover Colfax; Wednesday, July 10, 7pm

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

This event will include a discussion on empathy and how it relates to the book by author CHARLIE JANE ANDERS, a writing activity, and a closing discussion. The event is free, but you MUST REGISTER. (Please note: The author WILL be there.)

RELATED EVENT! Sunday, June 9 from 2:30pm - 4pm at the Denver Art Museum (100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, CO 80204); National Book Foundation & Denver Public Library presents: Recovering American Histories: J. Michael Martinez and Andrés Reséndez; No registration or RSVP required. For more information, please click here

When recounting the cultures, figures, battles, ideas, and peoples of any time or place, there is always a dominant historical narrative. But what stories lie beneath the surface of those histories, and how can we integrate the voices of the silenced into our contemporary understandings of the past? Join the National Book Foundation and the Denver Public Library for an engaging conversation with 2018 National Book Award Longlister J. Michael Martinez (Museum of the Americas) and 2016 National Book Award Finalist Andrés Reséndez (The Other Slavery) exploring buried histories of the Americas, legacies of colonialism, slavery, the subjugated and commodified body, and more.

Andrés Reséndez is a professor and historian at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, which Carolyn See called "impossible to put down" (Washington Post Book World), and The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, which was a 2016 Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. He lives in Davis, California. 


J. Michael Martinez received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for his first collection, Heredities. He is also the author of the collections In the Garden of the Bridehouse, published by the University of Arizona Press, and Museum of the Americas, winner of the National Poetry Series Competition and longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Poetry. He is the poetry editor of Noemi Press, and his writings have been widely anthologized. Hailing from Denver, he currently lives in upstate New York. 


The National Book Foundation (NBF) Presents programs bring National Book Award–honored authors to libraries, colleges, book festivals, and performance venues across the nation for public readings, discussions, and presentations. NBF Presents is designed to give audiences—whether in urban, suburban, or rural communities—access to some of our country’s most renowned writers and their books and to create spaces where authors and audiences can connect, be in dialogue, and share ideas. NBF aims to leave no reader or community overlooked, and to be a catalyst for conversations through great books. 

Fall & Spring Author Visits & Skype Visits to Schools  to link summer conversations. Availabiltiy to depend heavily on authors and publishers. 

Social Media

Post random acts of kindness with the Colorado Blue Bear.

Write short messages in chalk on sidewalks all at same day/time all over Colorado.

Post readers’ favorite parts of the Featured Book.

Hashtag: #COempathy

Featured author posts on social media.

Readers to post short videos of book summaries.



Add Featured Books to schools’ Summer Reading Lists.

Give extra credit for participating in this program.

Help spread the word about the program.

Create your own version of this program!

Colorado Big Summer Read Advisory Board

An advisory board of teachers, school librarians, instructional coaches, authors and community leaders will help curate the book list, create programming and to help spread the word. We're working with the publishers to bring the authors to Colorado this summer for events and activities, to arrange Skype and author school visits, create author videos, special written content, and more.