Today I found myself standing where I am often most at home, the bookstore. It isn’t as easy as driving downtown to get to a bookstore when you live surrounded by cornfields. No, you must get in said car, drive twenty-five miles, visit Barnes & Noble because there are no independent stores remotely close by, peruse the shelves, stop at Starbucks, and drive twenty-five miles home.
That being said, I love it.
There is something comfortable about a bookstore. There is possibility all around me. Books just waiting to be opened, stories to be told. I think my heart rate slows down when I’m there, my breathing is deeper, I’m more at ease than anywhere else. It’s quiet, but not too quiet, and I feel at peace.
When I head to the bookstore, I almost always head straight to the back, the children’s department. There I greet L.B.B. and head to the left where the picture books reside. While I’d love to purchase every new picture book, two items must hold me back. One, I already spend a small fortune on my classroom each year. One must be choosy. Two, we are at a one in, one out point in my classroom. The room is encircled by bookshelves. There is simply no more room for new books. Apparently 3263 is the magic number, no more, no less.
And so, the first thirty minutes or so of my visit finds me reading as many picture books as I can. As I read, I think whether this book is a must purchase for my classroom. Can I think of a mini-lesson I would use it for? Is it something that fifth graders need before heading to middle school? Today I read ten picture books and ended up deciding to purchase Courage. Not sure what book will have to come out to make room.
After spending time in the picture books, I move to the right and the world of middle grade novels. I shake my head at some clearly YA books that have been placed here. I can only assume that the folks working at Barnes & Noble don’t read all of the books they shelve. I briefly consider reshelving them for the employees when my attention is diverted – a woman and a young girl struggling to find a match.
I begin eavesdropping and pick up a few facts. They are not related, the young girl is getting ready for third grade and her mom is the woman’s friend. They pick up a few books, but the young girl despairs. The books look too hard for her. She whispers, “I’m just not good at reading…” and I swoop in.
I ask if I can make a suggestion and the woman looks at me like I’m a bit crazy. I explain that I teach reading to fifth graders and love books. She then gives me the hopeful glance of someone reaching for a life preserver. I look at the little girl and ask, “Have you ever read a graphic novel?” She shakes her head. With my heart lifted, I say, “Come and meet my friend, Babymouse,” and I stride across the room.
We stand at the shelves containing Babymouse for only about five minutes. I quickly describe the backstory and point out a few features of the book, like the reasons for the pink background. The girl opens up Queen of the World and reads the first three pages. Glancing up, she smiles and says, “Hey, this is good. And I can read it!” Tears spring in my eyes and I wish her well. The woman thanks me and they begin pulling several volumes off the shelf to buy.
I return to the middle grade novels area with a smile on my face. Grabbing the new book in Jon Scieszka’s Frank Einstein series, I head to the register. After purchasing both it and Courage, I head to my car.
Almost on autopilot, I find myself in the Starbucks drive through. I realize I’m smiling, thinking of the girl meeting Babymouse for the first time, the new students who will experience these two books currently residing on my front seat, of the fifth graders I will get to match with books this year. I miss that over the summer. Bookstores. Libraries. They are simply the best. Walk into the door and the whole world awaits. What a wonderful way to spend a morning.