Thursday, January 7, 2010

I took a trip...

This past week I made a trip out to my hometown of Pasadena, California (along with a lot of other Longhorns). I wasn't going for the game, however. My mom's dad passed away, and I went out for the funeral.

Accompanying me was my youngest, Nicholas, who has never traveled much, and never on a plane. Thank goodness it is only 3 hours, but...

So I loaded the backpack - diapers, wipes, snacks, and BOOKS. I can't tell you how many times I read those mini board books! But they kept his attention, and I am sure all around us were grateful.

Ok, so the trip. I had a few extra days, so I had an opportunity to do some things out there in my spare time. I knew I wanted to see a few friends, visit the school where I once taught for 12 years, and then...what shops? what restaurants? There was a myriad of ideas, but only one that was a MUST DO.

Go to Vroman's.

Vroman's is an independent bookstore that has been in Pasadena for over 115 years. It has survived despite recessions, chain bookstores, and development - thanks to a great many in that town who fought for it.

I LOVE THAT STORE. It was the first bookstore my parents took me to. The first where I actually BOUGHT books instead of borrowing. Where I could put my name on the inside. True ownership.

I worked there too a summer in college, but found I spent all my paycheck, even with my employee discount. I waitressed the next summer, and actually put money in the bank that year.

I parked the car and hurried in, anticipating the time I could browse, skim, and read. I began with fiction -- looking for a book recommendation from a good friend. Finding books is easy when you have someone of like interests to recommend things. I always tell my classes that. They need to talk to each other about books they liked (or didn't like) so that others can benefit from their experience.

I quickly found what I needed (if you call an hour quick) after finding about four others I wanted, and ran upstairs to the children's section. This is no ordinary children's section. You are immediately greeted by several tables with highlighted books -- of every genre and age level, enticing buyers to start reading right then and there. There are books by theme -- in this case they were getting ready for Valentine's Day. I like how they have the books organized by level (kind of like candy at the grocery store) -- so younger kids' books were at their eye/reach level, and the older kids' books were at theirs. It is awesome -- books just begging to be read, displayed in such a way that kids just WANT them.

Tickets hung from every shelf -- reader recommendations. I began to scan, looking for things for my boys first, myself second. This time, however, I was thinking outside the box.

My boys have tons of books that fit their interest levels, yet they all gravitate towards the same subjects or series. So my mission was to find books that would interest them, yet may introduce them to a new genre or author.

Matt's tricky that way. He's read by author for years. He gets on a kick and you can't get him to read others. I have noticed he isn't a fan of the fantasy books that seem all the rage. He likes books about kids like him, and humorous.

So I found a book about a boy who writes "How to Tame a Dragon." It has the humor, and isn't scary and dark. I myself find some of the fantasy these days too dark...this one had a lighter slant. We'll see how he likes it.

After another two hours, I had a list of about 15 titles and 6 already in my arms to buy. And I felt anticipation...of starting some new books, of having new treasures, of being able to share with you.

I always leave there wanting more than I can buy, yet feeling satisfied, like a good meal. I wish that for kids.

Find a bookstore and a free afternoon. Rather than going to Game Stop or Justice, take them there. Build a "shopping" experience - get a cocoa -- make it fun.

Your child may end up like me...making hundred mile journeys to find that special spot where they remember getting their first books, and falling in love with reading.

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