Boys in Bookstores

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There's a beanbag chair. Light pours in from the large windows. And a quiet - not the kind you find in the libraries of old when a computer area was non-existent - but a stillness of low voices and the turning of pages. It's calm, colorful and inviting. It's the bookstore.

In a time where practically anything we want or need is available to us by clicking on "proceed to checkout," the bookstore remains a holy place for me and my children. While I am a cheerleader for our city's incredible public library system where truly anything is at your fingertips and your taxes have already footed the bill, there is something about visiting a bookstore that inspires excitement about your next read. And in an age where Minecraft is king and Instagram replaces hardbacks, for your kids to reach for their next page-turner ... well, that's some good stuff.

One recent rainy afternoon, I picked up my oldest from school along with his two good friends (identical twins, by the way) and we headed into Broad Ripple with windshield wipers on high and the radio volume right up there with them. (Fifth grade boys, remember?) Parking the car next to the Monon Trail, we jumped over puddles all the way to Liz Barden's Big Hat Books bookstore. As the boys barreled through the double dutch door, I thought, "Well, this will be interesting." I had never brought three pre-teen boys into the quiet of a small, independently-owned bookstore and I was beginning to think there was a reason for that. The first couple of minutes, those boys were gnats. Buzzing around me and the store, not knowing where to land. My son whispered to me that there was nothing, NOTHING they were interested in. I pointed to one book on a small table and Liz took them on a brief tour of what looked cool for these young men/old boys.

Shortly thereafter, peace returned to the store. Those three settled into the large bean bag chair with the small pile of books they had selected and became engrossed, engaged. No screens were involved. I didn't want to spoil what I thought may just last a moment and set my own course in the store. I talked with Liz about everything - from schools and our kids to Native American/Western Art - and made my way around. I touched books, turned them over, pulled them off shelves and put most - but not all - back. I was engrossed and engaged too.

We need the chance to "fall in" with books and that really can only happen at our library or local bookstore. Perhaps because the owner carries and displays the book you read about in the New York Times Book Review or maybe it's because you're in a store and just like to buy things, have them put in a brown bag and then take them home for forever, but at the bookstore, I find that my kids relax, get comfortable and always find something they are excited about. And for that, I will happily "proceed to checkout" at the cash register rather than a tap of the return key.

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