Here at Island Books, we host a monthly story time that’s usually targeted towards kids three and up. It’s magic to watch the faces of pajama-clad kiddos light up as local storytellers and musicians take over our children’s section. These are the kinds of events that lodge themselves into children’s memories, and a good reason our younger generation of customers grow up feeling an intimate connection with the store.
At nine months, my twins are still too young for the formal Island Books story time, so as soon as I felt brave enough to leave the house on my own, I started taking them to infant story time at the Mercer Island library. They were about three months old then and had just begun to smile deliberately.
Children’s librarian Margaret Martin, known to all local kids as Miss Margaret, has been at the library for almost twenty years. She led the weekly event. Our group was usually small, but the same faces showed up regularly and we all delighted in watching our kids’ awareness grow. My little boy and girl could barely focus or see the books Miss Margaret held up at the beginning, but soon they were giggling, sitting up, and reaching for the pages.
My husband and I read to the kids every night before bed, but we are often tired, and our singing voices leave a lot to be desired. At the library, songs, stuffed animals, bubbles, and the group excitement made reading a particularly special event.
Miss Margaret is leaving the Mercer Island Library this month to take a new position as a school librarian for Hope International School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. My kids only knew her for six months, but what an important six months it has been. Now, when I spread their toys and books on the living room floor, they squeal and crawl frantically toward their books. I can step away for periods of time and know they are both flipping through the pages of their board book editions of Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?, Goodnight Moon, and Two is for Twins. It’s like they’re already reading to themselves.
I’ve started to build their future library with stock from Island Books. My friends and colleagues at the store will often point me towards titles they think I should have for the kids, and even though it’s a ways off before they’ll be reading Dr. Seuss to themselves, I’m getting ready. But for now especially, story time is something that has to be shared, whether it’s at the bookstore, the library, or at home. It’s not just books that are special; it’s the practice of reading that makes entire worlds come alive. Before they embark on many of their own experiences and adventures in life, my kids are going to read about them and let their imaginations soar.
Ebooks are such a big things these days, but having kids has reinforced my belief in the importance of physical books and places that allow us to immerse ourselves in a world of reading. When I see their eyes light up in front of a bookshelf, I know that the whole world is in front of them. And at the bookstore and library, they will always have a like-minded community.
Miriam Landis is a web monkey for Island Books on Mercer Island, WA, where she also writes for the store’s journal, Message in a Bottle. She joined the publishing industry in 2004 with an internship at Simon & Schuster and worked as an assistant editor at Hyperion and a site merchandiser on the Amazon books team. A former professional ballerina, she’s the author of two novels about ballet, Girl in Motion, and the sequel, Breaking Pointe and the mother of twins Stephen Marc and Lynne Dena, born in September of 2012.