A trip to the bookstore can be a great outing for kids of all ages, ranging from board book age to YA craze. While some of the bigger chains are vanishing, there are plenty of independent stores that continue to thrive because of one thing-the relationships they’ve built within their communities. Though these establishments are as unique as the neighborhoods in which they reside, they all share a passion for creating life-long readers.
Here are some of the best indie bookstores for Chicagoland’s youngest customers.
The Magic Tree Bookstore
141 N. Oak Park Ave. Oak Park (708) 848-0770 magictreebooks.com
“I get a special satisfaction from selling the nuts and bolts of joy and life. Reading opens up an entirely new world.”
~Rose Joseph, co-owner
In the neighborhood: When asked to explain how her children’s specialty store has survived since 1984, co-owner Rose Joseph says, “We were too stubborn to give up.” The store happily hosts numerous book fairs, library events and author visits each month.
Uniquely yours: Magic Tree stocks books in various languages (including Chinese) and offers titles geared toward a wide range of cultures and religious backgrounds.
Not to be missed: Cupcake decorating/storytime for the little ones. For the rest of the family: Archie Comics Anniversary Bash from 1-4 p.m. Sept. 3. It’s going to be some party!
What’s the buzz: This isn’t just a children’s department; the entire store is dedicated to kids-and it shows! Kids love the fairytale-like decor, and parents appreciate the helpful staff and large selection.
123 W. Jefferson Naperville (630) 355-26555112 Main St. Downers Grove (630) 963-2128 andersonsbookshop.com
“When you see a child light up when they talk about a book they just read-especially a child who wasn’t a reader-that is the biggest reward.”
~Co-owner Becky Anderson
In the neighborhood: Anderson’s is a family-owned business that has become a fixture in its Naperville and Downers Grove communities. Each year the owners schedule hundreds of author visits, as well as outreach programs like Naperville Reads.
Uniquely yours: Co-owner Becky Anderson insists that “phenomenal children’s booksellers” are what makes Anderson’s stand out. The store also draws big-name authors like Dan Gutman and Gail Carson Levine.
Not to be missed: “Super Saturdays” include themed storytimes with costumed characters, special activities, and plain old silliness galore, for ages 5-7.
What’s the buzz: Customers are greeted like family when they walk in the door. Since the stores are located near the Riverwalk in Naperville and shops and eateries in Downers Grove, visits can be part of a (long) fun day.
Women& Children First
5233 N. Clark St. Chicago (773) 769-9299 womenandchildrenfirst.com
“We want children to associate bookstores with having a good time…we get down on our hands and knees to talk with them, and respect them as early readers.” ~Linda Bubon, co-owner
In the neighborhood: As a member of the oldest chamber of commerce in the city, W&CF is an active participant in community events such as the Mid-Summer Festival and the Arts Festival.
Uniquely yours: Yes, it’s known as one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country, but as the name implies, kids do come first. Want proof? “Miss Linda’s” favorite day of the week is Wednesday-the day of the packed storytime.
Not to be missed: “Book Swap Nights” for children age 6-14. Kids can trade favorite reads with others, and pizza and drinks are provided.
What’s the buzz: The store’s open setup allows parents comfortably to browse while their kids are occupied with the toy piano, playhouse and, of course, the books.
The Book Stall
811 Elm St. Winnetka (847) 446-8880 thebookstall.com
“I love when the kids walk into the children’s department as if they own it. It shows they’re comfortable here, and that’s a great feeling.”
-Roberta Rubin, Owner
In the neighborhood: The Book Stall owners love planning in-store book fairs and fundraising events, as well as sending top authors to local schools.
Uniquely yours: Home of the Children’s Book Club. Doting adults can sign up the child of their choice to receive a specially selected book each month.
Not to be missed: TV Tune-out Week. A great mix of special speakers, storytimes and other fun events to help teens and children shun the screen during a specified week in March.
What’s the buzz: Parents know these friendly booksellers by name-they’re a self-proclaimed team that takes pride in making solid recommendations for their most discerning customers (read: “teen boys”).