Many people from all walks of life visit bookstores for many different reasons. In a small town bookstore it is easy to identify the different types that walk through the doors.
We have those in a hurry. They walk in, grab or order what they want and walk out.
Others have no idea what they want, but feel fortunate to have an independent bookseller to help them. These are the customers who are frantic because Sally’s birthday is tomorrow and they haven’t found a gift yet. Luckily, I know immediately from other visits who Sally is, how old she will be and what books she has enjoyed in the past year.
The browsers have yet to realize there is a difference between a library and a bookstore. They plop down in a chair with a stack of books and learn how to bake a pie or build a deck or decorate their house all while sitting in the bookstore. One such patron finished Breaking Dawn in its entirety the week it was released. Every day this high school student would sit in the back and read until we closed. Her friends would call and she would say “Can’t hang out today. I’m at the bookstore. Have you read the Twilight series?” She never bought the book, but I can’t pay for that kind of marketing!
Finally there are the chatters. They stop in every week or every month just to chat. They have never made a purchase and probably never will, but they have to be on top of whatever is happening in town. They stand by the counter or follow me from shelf to shelf complaining about life, their health, the government. They believe if no one is waiting to be checked out I have absolutely nothing to do, so they deserve my undivided attention.
I had one such customer, if they can be called customers, yesterday. Unlike most, this one is only in first grade. He has been coming in to visit since the day I opened over four years ago. By himself! It gives him something to do while his mom is in the bar across the street (parents, be careful what you tell your kids – they will most likely share the information).
In our usual routine he wandered the front of the store chatting away while I nod and say “really” and “hmm” in the appropriate places. Suddenly by the tone of his voice I realized something was different. He was no longer telling me about his day, he was sounding out book covers. This little boy was reading!! He was excited to show off his newly acquired skill, even though he “still likes football more than reading”.
Easy fix. I took him to the children’s section and showed him books about football. There is a book about Brett Favre? He LOVES Brett Favre!! Too many words, though. The Clifford early reader was perfect. We sat at the children’s table as he sounded out each word, using the pictures as his guide. I couldn't come up with a single task more important than that moment. Soon he read the entire book! He promised to return today to read me another story. Maybe as an incentive I will let him keep the Brett Favre book as soon as he is able to read it on his own. No one else in Wisconsin would be interested in it anyway.