Christine Brenner is less than two months away from opening the doors to a long-time dream: her own children's bookstore in the heart of downtown Raleigh.
Read With Me is slated to open at 111 E. Hargett St., a block or so from Marbles Kids Museum, in early April. There, Brenner, a Raleigh mom and former teacher, plans to fill the space with books for babies to teenagers, workshops and regular activities - all devoted to turning children into lifelong readers.
An IndieGogo online fundraising campaign continues to help raise money for the business. Supporters can take advantage of perks if they give. And, if Brenner reaches her $50,000 goal, she will donate 500 books to a local literacy non-profit that puts books in the hands and homes of children who need them.
I checked in with Brenner to learn more about her plans and work so far. Here's a Q&A.
Go Ask Mom: Why a children's bookstore and why downtown Raleigh?
Christine Brenner: I have been actively working on the plans for Read With Me for almost two years. I knew when my son started kindergarten in fall 2017 that I wanted to work outside the home again. It has always been my goal to own a business.
For me, the business I owned had to have the right balance between my passions, talents and what would work in the market. I needed to be able to strike the right balance between having a family and my work. I have a BS in elementary education with a major in English and a master of library science.
The idea finally formed when my son and I were on vacation and went into the local bookstore. I remember sitting on the floor with my son and reading through the picture books. We bought our books and went outside to read them in the chair together. I knew right then that I was going to open a children’s bookstore downtown near Marbles Kids Museum. Downtown is our family’s favorite place to be and we wanted to contribute to the growth and energy already here by adding something valuable for families.
GAM: What's your timeline for opening?
CB: Our opening is set for April 7, which is a First Friday. We will participate in First Friday activities as well as have illustrator art in the store. Inside, the store is painted, the design is finished and the bookshelves will be built starting this week. I also placed an initial book order full of exceptional new titles for ages 0-17. We also extended our IndieGoGo campaign to March 15 due to of all of the media interest.
GAM: Tell us about the programs that you hope to offer once the store opens.
CB: Our mission is to bring children’s books to life through interactive experiences with the creative process of storytelling. We will have several workshops a day. Former teacher Deanna Privette is working on a brilliant calendar of themed reading, writing and arts classes.
There will be drop-in classes and eventually an online calendar for registration. I invite other area writers and artists to contact me if they would like to come in and teach their craft, whether it is puppeteering or comic book creation. We want to give kids a unique creative outlet and we want to explore and celebrate storytelling in all of its forms.
GAM:You've been a teacher and a librarian. How much of a learning curve has there been as you work on opening the shop?
CB: Educators are constantly adapting to change, reflecting and making the seemingly impossible happen. With a lot of research, planning and support I have been able to manage the learning curve pretty well. I had the passion, ideas, knowledge but as soon as I began my business plan, it became clear I had to focus my education on business basics. I have learned a lot over the past two years and I'm ready to take it to the next level.
GAM: What books inspired you as a child? What books do you love reading to your own son?
CB: "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S.Lewis was my first love. Most of the time, I remember reading "The Baby-Sitters Club" by Ann M. Martin. My son is into super silly books such as "Dog Man" by Dav Pilkey and anything Star Wars. But our favorites to read together are the Elephant and Piggy Books by Mo Willems. We take turns being the different characters.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.