What makes a person a life-long reader? Is it biological? A certain mix of chemical compounds seething inside of you that sends out a message to your brain to say that THIS is the way you want to process information? Is it (as much research seems to suggest) from having parents who read to you as a child, or were readers themselves? Just sheer PROXIMITY to reading material can apparently be enough to get a reader going at an early age. Did you have a great teacher or mentor who took the time to figure out what you were interested in and guide you to books that you would enjoy? Did you hate to read, have trouble with it, were embarrassed by your lack of ability until someone else helped you to figure it out? Until you unlocked that magic reader's door for yourself.
Some readers are born, no doubt. But some children will always have to work hard for that gift and be exposed to books like a fly fisherman taking their first hesitant, wading steps into a swift stream.
The Magic Tree Bookstore is a place where all of this happens and more. Imagine a store that is locally owned by two women dedicated to making a place where reading, thinking and a love of books can flourish. Independantly owned in Oak Park, Illinois for 25 years and dedicated to getting books and readers together.
Along the way, we have had countless special events, contests, writing clubs, activities and author signings. We have supported our local schools and community and have been warmed by the support that they have shown us in return. The Magic Tree keeps the classics alive, but also stocks the most cutting edge young adult fiction available, encouraging communication, involvement and active thinking for everyone, no matter what their age. Board books, pop-ups, science, art, history, non-fiction, fiction, fairy tales, series- you name it. If it's for someone from birth through high-school, that's what the Magic Tree is all about.
I have seen the faces of countless kids light up in joy at the release of a long-awaited sequel. In relief at finding a book they feel like they can read that won't make them look stupid in front of other kids. Or disappointment that a series has ended and is done for good. Well-meaning parents come in trying hard to do everything right and they just can't understand why their kid is having so much trouble with reading. Other families come in, eager to share their opinions about the book they are reading together out loud over the summer and discussing what to read next. Teachers come in with orders for a new award-winner that they'll be teaching in the classroom next fall- offering to pay for the books out of their own pockets and glad to hear about our teacher's discount and tax=exemptions.
Then there are always the customers who come in and say that someone told them we might be able to help them find a book. They loved it as a child or their son or daughter had it and now they can't find it anywhere. It had ... a purple cover and picture of a doll and was about a little girl who takes an old doll to a party.... from across our small store, three voices call out "Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill! " We have it in paperback but we can order it in hardcover if you want. Reuniting people with books they thought they had lost is our favorite pastime. Almost ten years ago, when my son was less than a year old, I came in looking for 'The Country Bunny and the Golden Shoes' and have been around the Magic Tree ever since.
In many ways though, the best thing about the Magic Tree for children and adults is the opportunity for discussion. I cannot list here how many fascinating discussions , debates and even arguements I have had or listened to with adults, children and teens at the Magic Tree, but I value every one. Reading a book and holding it close to yourself like a secret is a wonderful thing- but wow, how great is it to go to a place where five other people have read it and can ask about your favorite part and tell you who they liked best and let you know that the author has written even MORE books for you to read?? It's TERRIFIC, that's what it is.
This blog is for all of those people: the kids, parents, teens, teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles and everyone in between who has come to the Magic Tree looking for something to read and gotten caught up in the ongoing discussion. This blog is also for all the hard-working authors without whose imaginations we would all be so much poorer. This blog is for the much-maligned publishers. It is an increasingly difficult industry and often one that is unfair to small stores like ours- but there are still great publishers out there, searching for and finding great new writers and books and bringing them to us.
But most of this blog is for Rose and Iris for keeping the Magic Tree going. This is for all the brilliant and talented people I have met through you- working at the store, helping with special projects and events, dedicating their time, effort and amazing talents so generously and with so much good will. This is for all of us!
So, what have you been reading lately?