So you want to buy a book for a nine-year-old boy who loves pirate stories but isn’t too good at reading. How do you decide what to get him? You go into your local independent children’s bookshop and ask their advice. They know the market. They have a shop full of children’s books and can instantly point you towards that perfect gift.
Sadly most UK people don’t have access to such a luxury. There are only twenty independent children’s book shops in the country and I am pleased to say that Leicester has one of them. The Reading Shop is on the main shopping parade that runs through the busy Leicester suburb of Oadby.
I went to meet the owner, Lynn Moore, and her enthusiasm was infectious. She has a passion for children’s books and is dedicated to helping children who have trouble learning to read.
‘When I was a little girl reading books was an object of delight and comfort, an escape into another world,’ Lynn told me. ‘I always had a dream of opening up a children’s bookshop, of being able to help parents choose the right books for their children.’
Lynn trained as an Educational Psychologist and worked for many years in mainstream schools. Together with a friend she developed a literacy programme to help children with reading difficulties, running after-school literacy classes in a small rented room. Things have moved on and up since those days. She now has a dedicated teaching area over the shop with 60 children attending her after-school sessions.
Lynn has read all her stock and has learnt from experience not to rely on reviewers.
‘Hotly reviewed books are not necessarily the best sellers,’ she said. ‘Independent bookshops can nurture the unknown. If we notice a gem of a book, we can take it and promote it. No one dictates to us.’
The Reading Shop does more than sell books and run after-school literacy classes. They organise book fairs, storytelling sessions, baby and toddler groups, author signings, both in the shop and in schools, and Lynn is currently working on plans to hold book parties with the host earning a book or two for their help.
We used to have a number of independent book shops in Leicester. Now we only have The Reading Shop. It’s a thriving business at the moment so let’s make sure we keep it that way. Let’s keep on visiting. Let’s keep on taking advantage of her wealth of book knowledge. Let’s keep the independent bookshops alive.
Lynn Moore’s top 5 children’s books (in reader-age order rather than order of preference):
Babies: Peepo! by Janet Ahlberg
Toddlers: The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs
4-6 years: Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes
Young readers: Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Older readers: anything by Anthony Horowitz