I love it when particularly avid young independent readers come to the bookstore, the kind about whose parents say desperately, “She’s read everything. EVERYTHING. She’s gone through all the books for her age in the library. Do you have anything good she hasn’t read?” This is a children’s bookseller’s happy place: the challenge of it, and the opportunity to nourish voracious readers’ appetites for great books and introduce them to new treasures. And the kids are so gratified to meet adults who love children’s books as much as they do. When you start talking about titles you both love, their eyes light up, any initial shyness drops away, and you’re off and running. Shared love of books creates instant friendship across generations, and in the bookstore, when you earn a kid’s trust by really knowing your stuff, you’ve not only made a loyal customer today, you’ve paved the way for your future.
“You’re hired!” is a phrase I often say to kids who spot a book on the shelves that’s been eluding us, or who recommend a great read to another child in the store, or who pipe up with a vital piece of title or author information we’re looking for. Happily, being “hired” generally makes them beam. And when there’s a super-reader at the store, that kind of rare reader you know will end up doing something that involves books someday, we put in our bid: “Some day, when we retire, you’ll take over the store, right?” It’s lovely that their answer is usually something along the lines of, “Omigosh! I hope so!” Our job is to keep evolving so that, when they do grow up, they really might be able to inherit the dream of running an independent bookstore — and putting riches into the hands of a whole new generation of “everything” readers.