Working Away

Hi guys, I working away in this corner of the world. Juggling a lot of different types of reading and wishing I had more energy to blog more (but also in general).

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If you have been wondering why I am not as active as I once was, reading middle grade books is a large part of that. My bosses had asked that I look to grow my middle grade reading and  now I’m actually toying with the idea of expanding the blog to cover middle grade books, or just create a middle grade blog to chronicle my adventure.

Not sure if that is something y’all would be interested in seeing or not.

Anywho, there are a few new posts coming in the next three weeks so enjoy!

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How Barnes & Noble Could Rival Amazon

The best days of my childhood were at the bookstore. My mom and I would go into town on a Saturday or Sunday, usually not on the day I played soccer, and spend several hours at the Borders Bookstore (Rest in Peace). I would browse the children’s books, she the romance. But here is the thing: in the music section there were 4 very big, very comfy couches. There were chairs through the store, and a café. But the couches…

Me defending the couches, while my mother went for books.

We would spend hours at the store reading books (I usually had at least 10 I was trying to convince my mom to buy). And then the bookstore closed. Fast forward a few years and I moved to New York.

The first day I went to a Barnes & Noble, I was shocked at the lack of seating. I get it, these are smaller buildings and all that, but REALLY? When I watched young teens try to sit and read, they were promptly told to get up, it is a fire hazard. I get it, I do. But I watched those kids put back the books they were reading, grab the latest bestseller, and leave. And I was so frustrated!

When publishers sell to bookstores, they sell the books at a reduced price: wholesale price. To turn a profit, the bookstore sells the book for the list price. This is one of the reasons Amazon is hated: they buy the books from publishers, and then mark the book down to get customers to come (it is called a loss leader; i.e. sell something for a loss in the hopes that customers will return for something else).

But Barnes & Noble could rival Amazon. Stay with me: Starbucks is in the environment of coffee. They don’t just sell coffee; they have created an atmosphere of coffee.  Barnes & Nobles is currently in the business of selling books, but they need to be in the environment of books.

Imagine if Barnes & Noble encouraged spending the day there. Some of you might argue that people would just read the books and leave without buying. There are people like that now. Heck, I have been that person. But when you create the environment of reading, people want to linger.

Children will look past the new bestseller and stumble on some middle list authors. Amazon is not a good tool to stumble upon new books. People go there when they know what they want. And the recommendation tool sometimes gurgles out the same books I bought elsewhere.

One of the problems with Barnes & Noble is price. So to play devil’s advocate: drop the price a bit. Don’t be like Amazon and use it as a loss leader, if the prices are lowered by a dollar or so, then you can pull people in and have them linger over your environment.

A lot of indie bookstores do this exact thing. It’s why they are loved.

Be in the business of books, not just selling them.

Why I Volunteer and What It Means

I volunteer to read with homeless children. Would I recommend it? Heck, yeah I would!  It is an amazing opportunity to give back to my community and also do some market research. Not to mention this sweet mobile library (in a former small school bus).

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If you have a second, educate yourself on how kids use and engage with books. Scholastic’s  Reading Reports are a great way to see how both parents and kids view books and reading. US literary and reading statistics are import to know as well.

One thing I see a lot when I volunteer is kids reading below their age level. My first volunteer session, there was a little girl who struggled with the chapter books. Now, I have been amazingly blessed with two things: a mother who made reading a priority and a higher than average reading ability. So it was difficult for me to first understand how much these children struggled.

There is one thing all everyone knows: you are less inclined to do the things that are difficult or boring. Most children are not reading on their age levels. Lexile Levels are great way to address that.

Today’s volunteer work was different. A girl (we’ll call her Jane) chose to read with me today and I was informed she couldn’t read. I have heard this before from some from some of the struggling readers, so I usually try and coax it out. However, the program leader confirmed: Jane had never been taught to read.

Jane was suppose to practice reading, but he problem is that Jane is 10 and the books she is trying to read are the earlier readers that are meant for younger children. No 10 year old wants to read a book about a dog named Spot and his red ball. In fact, Jane really wanted to read Manga.

The dilemma came in when it was time to pick books. Jane wants the Manga because she knows the stories from TV. The program director is telling her she can’t get them because she needs to learn with the younger books. And there I am, the volunteer who is there to encourage reading (not to mention the fact that I know how import it is to get kids reading what they want to read).

How do you balance these two warring wants?

Jane needs to learn to read the basic words, but she also needs to be engaged to be encouraged to continue wanting to read.