Every year the Shelburne Community School introduces all the kindergartners to our small village by walking around and visiting all the kid-appropriate places in town. The bookstore is a big part of that day. I generally love this day. The little ones are so little that 22 of them fit very comfortably on the rug in the picture book section. Each class comes in with their teacher and several parent volunteers. They walk in holding their partner’s hand (safety first when walking about town) and settle in quickly. This year there were no introductions as the teachers just hung back and let me start things off. Generally, I wouldn’t mind this, but shortly before the children arrived we received upwards of 20 boxes that need to be dealt with as 13 of them were for an event on Monday with David Sedaris. The first class arrived at 12:30 and they were as cute as can be. Many looked familiar, but many did not and that always gets me thinking, “Why don’t these kids’ families shop at the store?” I let that pesky thought go as I introduced myself, then winged the rest of my presentation which really consisted of asking the kids questions. We talked about the differences between a library (their next stop) and a bookstore. One little boy shouted out, “A liberry is where you have to give the books back and a bookstore is where you get to keep the books.” I said he was right and added you have to pay for the books at a store. Then I asked if they knew why I love libraries and bookstores so close together. They did not. I told them the library was a great place to learn about lots of books they might love, and if there’s a book they keep checking out or are sad to return then they come to the bookstore and get if for their collection at home. I like instilling in the little ones that books are treasures that can be thoughtfully collected.
I always ask the kids to guess how many books we have in the store. I do this partly because their range of answers from the tiny to impossibly huge always amuses me. Most kids seemed to think we had about 50 books. I told them to guess higher. “53 books!” Higher. “58 books.” I was reminded that kids this young don’t really have a concept of size yet, so I told them, guess even higher. Well, then I got guesses of “One hundred billion gazillion.” Um, not so much, although the back room was certainly starting to feel that full.
Each class was different and was learning a variety of things. The second class to come in was working on writing and illustrating their own books. I brought out Elizabeth’s books to show them and talk about her publication process. They were pretty excited to learn that the store co-owner was also an author. They asked if they could meet her and I explained that sometimes authors visit places and give talks and that’s why she wasn’t at the store. Their little hat-clad heads nodded with approval. We then went on to talk about what they were going to be for Halloween and the range of costumes by class was absolutely fascinating. One class was all super heroes, another was all real people and the last class was mostly classic witches and vampires.
The last great moment of the day was when the last class and I were talking favorite books and one little boy saw the back cover of Elizabeth’s book, My Father the Dog, on the shelf behind me and pointed excitedly at it. “That’s my favorite book! My Father the Dog! My dad is just like him!”
And that felt like a great way to end this year’s annual visit to the bookstore.