Have you seen the movie You’ve Got Mail? Have you yearned, as I have, to visit the children’s bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner, that is a central character in the movie? Have you wished, as I have, that it were real? Have you bemoaned its fate, being forced out of business by the giant Fox Books? If you’ve never listened to Nora Ephron’s voice-over commentary on the DVD, I urge you to do so. She believed so strongly in the need for books, and bookstores in children’s lives.
In the 1980s, there was a wonderful children’s bookstore in my city, the Children’s Corner Bookstore. There weren’t such places when I was a child, but oh I loved this store, and a counterpart in the other major city in the province, the Bookworm’s Den.
Unfortunately, these shops devoted to children’s literature disappeared years ago. Children’s bookstores and indeed, independent bookstores, are becoming a thing of the past, which is such a shame. Bookstores are so important in providing children with access to books.
Of course, books are readily available online, but the experience isn’t the same. The purchaser tends to go directly to the title in mind. Browsing isn’t easy. In a brick and mortar store, there’s the experience of having a multitude of books to choose from, in a myriad of colors and sizes and topics. The books can be touched, dipped into, tested out. And there is always the chance of a serendipitous discovery of a book that you didn’t even realize you were looking for.
Bookstores, even the big box ones, also contribute to the larger community. For example, our local big box bookstore “adopts” an inner city elementary school every year. Monetary donations to a fund are solicited from the store’s customers. Donations are made to the school’s library, and sometimes, the children from that school get to come to the bookstore to choose a book. I have spoken to staff members who have been present at such visits, and their faces glow as they tell of the children’s excitement in being able to choose a book. To read more about Chapters/Indigo’s Adopt a School program, click this link.
Thankfully, there are still some bookstores specifically geared toward children. I think it is so important to keep these alive, to show children that books are important, and that children’s books are important. A case in point is the bookshop that is depicted in the photos in this blogpost. The Red Balloon Bookshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota is a vibrant, active place for children and books to be brought together. It regularly features signings, readings, and activities for all ages from infants to young adults. I only have photos of the exterior, because we visited on a Sunday when the store was closed. However, I’m already planning that next time I visit the cities, there will be a large window of time set aside for visiting The Red Balloon!
Another children’s bookstore that is on my “bucket list” is Peter H. Reynolds’ bookshop in Dedham, Massachusetts, The Blue Bunny. Not surprisingly, given the fact that the store is run by a creative family that includes the author/illustrator of books such as The Dot and Ish, art supplies are available as well as books at The Blue Bunny, and there are regular creativity workshops.
Other bookshops dedicated to children and children’s books are dotted around the United States and Canada (and no doubt other places in the world as well). Books of Wonder in New York; Monkeyshines in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Woozles in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; these are just a few — but there aren’t all that many of these delightful places left. I think it’s important for us to support them, champion them, and teach our children to value them.
One way to do this is to participate in Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, this year being held on December 1. Although that seems far in the future now, that time of year gets booked very rapidly, so why not put it on your calendar now? Your child will be grateful, now and in later years.
Is there a children’s bookstore near you? Do you have memories of the joys of bookstores? Please share your stories in the comments.
And DON’T FORGET THE GIVEAWAY! All August, commenters will be entered into a draw for a copy of Emma Walton Hamilton’s book Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment.
Disclaimer: I received no recompense for the mention of these bookstores on my blog. The citings are merely personal recommendations.