Independent Bookshops Encourage Lifelong Readers
Many families have now heard my story about growing up not knowing how to read. I was raised during a time when the rhetoric around the reading curriculum did not include my learning style. Of course, that did not stop my parents from showering me with the most colorful books filled with glorious pictures and captivating storylines. For us, it was Louis Strymish’s New England Mobile Book Fair.
As a young child, I recall my mother dragging me into the building behind the West Roxbury post office and staring at stacks of books as high as the ceiling. It was a bit intimidating for me but not for my mother, who spent hours perusing the various departments for the best deals. Unfortunately, the store burned down in 1964. It surfaced again, this time in Newton, where it stayed through the emergence of such book sellers as Barnes and Noble and the online giant, Amazon. Finally, after more than 50 years the company was sold. Those early experiences had me lusting for more even when I couldn’t read. And because of those memories, when I had my own children we spent Saturday afternoons at independent bookstores. My hope was they would love books just as I had. Today they are both voracious readers.
I am not sure if the experience of the bookstore itself is the reason I looked forward to going or if it was the opportunity to set aside time to spend time with my mother, who helped me choose books that were age appropriate and kept me engaged.
Today, our quick “go to” is the internet and our bookstore of convenience is Amazon. I realize not everyone purchases books through the global giant, but even I will go to them when I am looking for a specific topic. But, when it comes to languishing in the store and selecting one, two, or three books to take home with me, there is nothing like our local independent bookstores.
Last Saturday was National Independent Bookstore Day. It was a good time to stop and ask myself why I support independent shops when I know the books are priced according to what the publishing companies request. There are no breaks on the price of the book like I would find on Amazon and the choices are much more limited to what they can support on their floor. But, these brick and mortar stores represent an opportunity for families to visit and to share their love of reading with their children. The experience of visiting a small, inviting shop filled with dedicated staff who make excellent book suggestions, cannot be traded for the stroke of our computer keys in the middle of the night.
Independent bookstores offer so much more than an online store and I recommend that if it has been a while since you ventured into one, you take time in these next few weeks to visit with your child. The selection of books are curated for the customers who shop that store by the employees who know their customers. Not only does it help you as a shopper to hone in on a desired title, but it allows parents to get to know their child’s preferences. A parent might even find an old favorite of theirs and share it with their child.
Beyond that, local bookshops frequently have guest authors not just for the adults, but also for children and young adults. Take your child to hear an author speak. There is no better way of engaging children than to allow them to meet the author of the book they are about to read. And, if they are lucky, the author might even sign the book for them. These are cherished moments that you will remember long after they have grown.
Purchase books your child has shown an interest in and once home, be sure to set aside time to read with them. After reading aloud with your child, ask them questions about the story, the characters, and the pictures. And reading aloud is not just for small children. Older children enjoy the experience of reading aloud, minus the pictures. This will offer a glimpse into how your child thinks and makes connections and will create a life-long journey they can continue into adulthood.
Is this an experience that can be shared ordering books online? I am sure it is not. Entering an independent bookshop where the books are beautifully displayed offers the reader a multimodal experience where they see the books, feel the books, and can speak to the experienced staff about subject matter. Sitting on pillows in the corner of the children’s section reading with your child is a memory that both parent and child will share. Hopefully, you will instill that love of books in them that they, in turn, will pass on to their own children.
I have listed several independent bookstores you might consider visiting. My favorites are the small ones. Happy exploring!
This charming store is right up the street from KMS. It is small but chock-full of great books and activities for both young and old. They are part of a small chain with several stores in other states. I couldn’t leave there without buying a little something for me and my children.
This is located on the lower end of Newbury Street near Patagonia. They have a lovely shop with a cafe so books can be purchased and enjoyed while eating. They host all kinds of activities in the store including a “Sip and Stitch” event.
This is a classic store located in JP. They have an excellent selection of books for children and young adults. Unfortunately, their store sustained significant damage a week ago when two cars drove through the front. They could use support by purchasing online. When they reopen be sure to stop by!
This bookstore has events that include author presentations. This is a great opportunity to meet and be inspired by the authors as they describe their writing process. It is also helpful to students who are learning how to put their thoughts together on paper in their primary years.
I am particularly partial to this bookstore because it is practically in my backyard. Wellesley Books is my go-to when I want something new or wish to be inspired. Their crew is incredibly helpful and their choices plentiful. The author’s series is great for introducing children to local authors and learning about their process.
Yes, you need to drive to Dedham to visit this one-of-a-kind bookstore. Owned by Peter Reynolds, I have been following his work since he began his journey. When you arrive here, you are met by a very large blue bunny poised outside the door. Inside, you will find many titles by Peter, the same ones we have here at Kingsley, as well as other authors like Dave Pilkey. This is definitely a trip worth making. You and your child will have an experience that you will cherish for years to come.
The shop has curated a glorious collection of books focused on the diverse society we live in. The selection of children’s books is excellent. If you decide to visit, be aware that they are struggling with delays on children's and young adult books. The owners are quite knowledgeable and very attentive. Plus, they will happily special order books for customers!
This is another great bookstore for those over near Harvard Square. They have an excellent event calendar where authors present both virtually and in-person. They have a great selection of books. And, if visiting first online, the sidebar includes staff suggestions for children’s books.
Until next time…
B.J. Cataldo, Ed.D.