I love it when little kids come to the store and shop for the first time. Our goal here is to make shopping for books for fun. The beauty of making the kids comfortable in the store is that the parents relax, and this makes for a much better shopping experience.
Children like what’s familiar. There is a real delight in watching a young child at the bookstore. They marvel at all the books, usually exclaiming with pure joy, “We have that!!” To them, it’s sort of amazing that we have the same books they do.
Then there is the inevitable discussion about the difference between the bookstore and a library. This conversation usually occurs after a tot has amassed all the books he has at home. It’s really interesting to watch parents explain the concept of what buying something means. Little ones just have no idea yet. This is something, though, that they learn to grasp very quickly. It’s always a little heartbreaking to see a small child navigate the very complex dynamic of what gets purchased and what gets re-shelved, often on the sly, to avoid upsets.
Then there are the kids who don’t want help finding their books. They like to look at everything before deciding where they should settle down. These one spend much of their time in the young adult section asking, “Are these big kid books or little kid books?” Already, at a young age, these guys want the big kid books. Little kid books are for little kids, and doesn’t every little kid want to be a big kid?
Occasionally, there will be kids who think board books make great skates. I see them sliding slowly on the rug in the baby section. They are adorable and while it’s probably not a great thing for them to do, if they are in socks, I let them slide away.
Perhaps my favorite thing, just because it’s so incongruous, is when a child under the age of three hands me a credit card. Usually the card has been licked in some way or has little fingerprints on it from hot little hands trying to hold on to it. I take the card and smile and explain they can have it right back. Otherwise, the kids can just start crying as if to say, why’d you take that away? Our scanner has a long cord which enables us to let the littlest shopper keep her book while we ring it up. This saves lots of tears and it’s fun for them to hear the beep.
I love seeing a small child’s head just below the counter with a book she wants. I look at this little shopper and see the future of independents everywhere. This child needs to feel that my store is different than any other store. The kids are too little to know the difference, but I think it’s important that all kids, no matter how young, come to the bookstore feeling welcome.
Nothing warms my heart more than a kid shouting, “I love this store.” We are lucky that we hear this a lot.