All Vermont schools, both public and private, are in full swing. Families are adjusting to the new schedule of classes, sports, and homework, and this affects the bookstore. There is a rhythm to the school year that is very different than the summer, and it’s one that often saddens me. Gone are the long days of summer reading. They are replaced by the workload of school. It’s been three weeks since school began here, and already I’m noticing that all my customers who started high school have been notably absent from the store.
In the summertime, there is little grasping of when customers are likely to be shopping. Sometimes people are waiting for us to open so they can get books for their day on the lake, or for their return trip home. It feels chaotic at times as entire families descend on the store, filling it with shoppers of all ages. In the fall the families, for the most part, are not shopping en masse. Instead we usually get one parent at a time coming in to get books for their kids or themselves. Our mornings tend to be quiet, often with older customers who are shopping for themselves. Parents come in right before or after kindergarten’s noon pickup. Then there can be a lull again until after the school rush.
I’m still struck by just how much business we can pack into the last three hours of the workday. All store owners keep an eye on the daily till throughout the day, and days that start almost painfully slowly, can wind up being stunning. And you’d think after 20 years of this exact rhythm, I’d be used to it, but I’m still amazed at the end of every day. The slower mornings allow for more thoughtful work to happen. There is time to really work on a restocking order, or do promo for events without rushing around like mad.
The hardest part of the school year starting again is losing the teenage readers. This makes me crazy every year. There is something about ninth grade that seems to suck the joy out of pleasure reading. Homework loads tend to be very large compared to eighth grade, sports schedules make for a very hectic day, and there is a struggle between what kids want to read and what they have to read. I just wish there were a way for pleasure to be incorporated more into the student’s workload. Gone is the half hour of reading a night that younger kids are required to do. I almost wish the schools would bring that back for high school students – not just for them, but for me, because I miss seeing my teen customers.