When I first started teaching (back in the 80s) there were very few children’s artists: Raffi, Sharon, Lois & Bram, Fred Penner, Charlotte Diamond, Ella Jenkins, Greg & Steve, Hap Palmer…that was about it in the field. Those artists were much beloved, much-played and well sold in local children’s and general bookstores. Because there were so few of them most children knew their music and had a “shared repertoire” of songs and teachers capitalized on that in early childhood classrooms.
By the early 90s my hometown of Cincinnati had become home to three unique “independent” bookstores—two intended for all audiences, and an actual children’s bookstore with the widest selection of children’s music I’d ever seen! It was like the Emerald City of children’s books and music and I was on my merry way to see all the amazing new artists (and authors) that were not to be found in Barnes & Noble–the stalwart, “one size fits all” box store. I actively pursued all the new artists’ music I could get my hands on between those stores and had no difficulty finding something new each visit!
And then, as if someone had flipped a switch, it all changed. Each new visit to a store resulted in scant choices–new or otherwise, increased “commercial” music, and finally, nothing at all could be found except a few Raffis and All Things Disney.
By this point in the internet evolution, buying CDs had also expanded, so all was not completely lost. However, the advent of Amazon also decried the end to paying retail price for much of anything–and suddenly all of the booksellers, big and small, could hear the deafening “whoooosh!” as customers left the bricks-and-mortar stores to buy what they wanted–when they wanted it–at cheaper prices online.
So if we (myself included) have so much to gain by shopping online–cheaper prices, comparison shopping at a click, shopping in our PJs in the middle of the night, and many times free shipping, why do we need bookstores at all?
Why Indie Bookstores?
*If you’ve ever gone shopping for a red blouse and discovered as you perused that you also liked a green one and a polka dot dress, you need indie booksellers. An actual store offers you the immediacy of touching, feeling, even smelling the products before you buy (not to mention that free sample of reading!).
*If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store to get three items and come out with ten, you need indie booksellers. Where else can you truly find more treasures than you went for?
*If you’ve ever gone to see your doctor and had to be seen by a different doctor who doesn’t know your medical history or personal quirks (you refuse to give up that one scoop of ice cream before bed no matter how much he begs), you need an indie bookseller who knows your interests and what is new that might intrigue you.
*If you’ve ever felt a sense of disappointment when you’ve gone to a box store and there was no one to assist you. In any aisle. Anywhere. You need an indie bookseller.
*If you’ve ever yearned for a local shop that was unique so you could find an unusual gift that didn’t look like every other person’s gift under the tree or next to the cake, you need an indie bookstore.
*If you teach with art and passion–beyond the “required” content–you need a bookseller that reflects your passion. Indie booksellers do not get into the business for money and riches any more than teachers do! They get into the field because they love what they do.
*If you believe, as I do (and research has proven), that children read best when they have options, you need a bookstore that provides those, too–music and books.
If you feel strongly that artists and authors of all genres for all ages deserve to be published, you need to support an independent bookseller who does, too. Without them, we would end up in a “Bestsellers Only” world! Do you read bestselling books or listen to award-winning artists? I do, but my interests vary far from that short list.
I discovered Hicklebees Children’s Book Store near San Jose, CA on a trip. They have an amazingly large, varied collection of books and music specifically designed, written, and selected with children in mind. Their staff is knowledgeable. They frequently host guest artists, authors and illustrators (as evidenced by their autograph-covered walls!). They recognize their customers and greet the newbies with friendly service. Actual service. I was taken on a “guided tour” by one of their staff members who was eager to show a newcomer all the wonders of their store that were not on the shelves–the autographs (even in the bathroom, there are so many!), their Hall of Fame curio cabinets full of book-related artifacts, their comfy reading spaces. And as I left with one HUMONGOUS bag of books and CDs I realized that it was not just the products that appealed to me–it was the ambiance, the other shoppers’ enthusiasm, and the staff’s eagerness to assist that made shopping there a pleasing experience that I enjoyed rather than an item to check off my To Do list.
That is why Little Songbird has created an Affiliate Program with Hicklebees. If you see a song you like that has suggested books next to it you will find that clicking on the book link takes you directly to Hicklebees store website where you can make your purchase. You may also use their Contact Us link to email them directly and inquire about books you are in need of–perhaps a good book to use as a Mentor Text, or a great birthday idea for your niece, or just a new book or CD from a new-to-you author/artist. They are there for all of us, happy to help and willing to go the extra mile to make your purchase easy, enjoyable, and meaningful.
I know we will all still find ourselves shopping online for the best deals, but I encourage you all to consider supporting your local INDIE booksellers and stores. And when you’re on our site, Hicklebees will be available to provide your children’s literature needs. It’s a decision we feel particularly proud of here and we hope you will feel good about supporting independent booksellers, artists, and authors through our affiliate.