Read More You Must: The First Annual ‘Star Wars’ Reads Day

Not-so-long ago, in a bookstore just bordering Atlanta, Georgia, men and women, girls and boys, Jedi and Sith Lords, Troopers and Wookiees, united for a worthy event: The first annual Star Wars Reads Day’ on Saturday, October 6, 2012.

Using the motto, “Read More You Must,” the day was created by Lucasfilm, but involved the corroboration of all its publishing partners – from Dark Horse to Random House to Scholastic to Del Rey – and featured over 1,000 events at bookstores nationwide.

Little Shop of Stories, an independent bookstore in Decatur, Georgia, not only had members of the 501st and Rebel Legions stop by, but The Clone Wars voiceover artist and Her Universe clothing designer Ashley Eckstein also participated, signing autographs and hosting the kids’ trivia contest.

Daddy-daughter duo Alan and Annabelle Broome eagerly waited first in line to the bookstore, with Annabelle, 10, decked out in a tiara, an Ahsoka Tano shirt, and her hair in a Princess Leia-inspired braid. Her dad wore his recently-acquired Star Wars Celebration Disney shirt and is the person responsible for Annabelle’s love of the series.

Broome first showed his daughter the original trilogy when she was around 8 years old, and she quickly gravitated to the movie’s hero, Luke Skywalker.

“I think he’s cute,” she grins, adding, “He’s a good Jedi.”

Alan Broome and his daughter, Annabelle, 10, were first in line for ‘Star Wars’ Reads Day at a small Decatur, Georgia bookstore.

LeAnne Martinelli brought her two younglings to the event, both donning Star Wars costumes: Aiden, 6, was Yoda, and Isabella, 3, an ewok.

Aiden has been a fan for a few years, his mother told me, adding, “On the family trip to Disney World in April, he even battled Darth Vader,” referring to the theme park’s interactive Star Wars show.

Aiden, 6, and Isabella, 3, were shy, even behind their respective Yoda and Ewok costumes, but they lit up at the sight of the 501st and Rebel Legions.

And then there were folks like Paula Rosenberg, 44, and Jeff Wiley, 42, who were there simply for themselves.

“I’m what we call an ‘old fart fan’,” Rosenberg laughs, saying she’s been a fan since she was 9.

For Wiley, too, the story is not so different.

“I saw it theaters at age 6, and I’ve been a fan ever since.”

Like little Annabelle Broome, I, too, was introduced to the films at a young age by my father, and I have often wondered why the movie has not just endured, but evolved, like it has.

Wiley thinks much of it is generational.

“If you see it at a certain age, then you’re a fan for life,” he explains. “If you see it past a certain age, you like it, but you don’t become a die-hard.”

As for the remaining reason?

“It’s just great escapism!” Rosenberg concludes.

Adults may recognize it as escapism, but for the dozens of young children that day, Star Wars was REAL.

Darth Vader himself walked out to begin the festivities, and while some kids squealed and others cowered behind their parents, all of them stared at him with equal parts terror and wonder.

Six-year-old Nicholas Strauss, a Han Solo fan, even pointed his toy blaster pistol as Vader walked among the crowd.

While some kids ran away from Darth Vader, parents chuckled when event attendee Jeff Wiley, 42, recreated the iconic “Force Choke.”

But the real star of the day was Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano on Cartoon Network’s The Clone Wars – and Her Universe creatorwho arrived to sign autographs and host the trivia contest.

Despite being about twice the age of the character she voices, Eckstein, while ever the graceful professional, acted like a big kid herself, hugging everyone, remembering names, and gaping in legitimate, wide-eyed wonder whenever a fan would bring her something that he or she created.

Despite the presence of Darth Vader and even Chewbacca, the real star of the day was Ashley Eckstein, the voice of “Ahsoka Tano”, on Cartoon Network’s ‘The Clone Wars.’

Caroline Hearne, 15, drove all the way from Charleston, South Carolina with her grandmother for the event.

She even came dressed like Ahsoka Tano, complete with makeup, belt, and beaded hair accessory she made herself, even giving Eckstein a matching one, which resulted in numerous hugs and squeals.

While she has aspirations of becoming a pharmacist, Hearne started a costuming blog called “Becoming Ahsoka,” documenting her step-by-step process of how to make a screen-accurate Ahsoka Tano costume, which she said was not quite ready for today’s event.

Caroline Hearne, 15, came all the way from Charleston, South Carolina for the event. She surprised Eckstein with a homemade beaded hair accessory, like the one Ahsoka Tano wears on ‘The Clone Wars.’

After a fun-filled two hours, full of photo ops and origami and “Yoda Soda” – a concoction of Sprite, lime sherbet, and lime juice – grinning kids left with new books to read and stories of their own to tell.

Despite having celebrated LEGO Star Wars Day with the 501st once before, ‘Star Wars Reads Day’ was a big undertaking for the small store, but Little Shop of Stories manager Krista Gilliam says it was worth it – that it is always worth it.

“It was a huge success,” she smiles. “We’re excited when kids get excited about reading.”

First ‘LEGO Star Wars Day’ and now ‘Star Wars Reads Day’? The Force is certainly strong in metro Atlanta!

Whether they are on the Dark Side of the Force or the Light, there’s one thing both sides can agree on: READ MORE, YOU MUST.

View more photos from ‘Star Wars Reads Day’ below!