The shelves are filled. The storytime perch is waiting. And Read With Me, the new downtown Raleigh children's book store, is ready for customers.
The shop at 111 E. Hargett St. in downtown Raleigh will open its doors on Friday. Owner Christine Brenner, a former teacher and school librarian, tells me she's eager to see customers walk through the door. She's also hopeful that the shop turns into not just a place to buy books, but a community gathering spot for storytimes, classes and more.
The shop will be open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. This Friday, which is First Friday in downtown Raleigh when shops, galleries, restaurants and museums are open later, Read With Me will stay open until 7 p.m. and offer craft activities.
The shop might look different than most bookstores. For the most part, the books are turned out so shoppers can see the covers as they peruse the selections.
Brenner also has come up with a unique shelving system. Books for babies and young preschoolers are on the very bottom shelf. Moving up the shelves are books for lower elementary school readers, then upper elementary school readers, middle grade readers and young adult readers. She calls it "grow up with books" shelf organization.
"I was trying to think about how I can make it easy for somebody to find the books," she said.
Now, they can peruse the right shelf for the age of the child they are shopping for and find the covers that intrigue them. For Brenner, the cover art is important.
"I tried to focus on the books that had an artistic element," Brenner said. That might be the illustrations inside a picture book or graphic novel or the book cover on a young adult novel.
Shoppers also won't see shelves filled with classic children's books here. Sure, there's "Frog and Toad" and plenty by C.S. Lewis, one of Brenner's favorites. But, with limited shelf space and a desire to introduce readers to contemporary authors and diverse voices, Brenner has filled her shop mostly with books written in the past couple of years.
"Everyone knows the classics and you can get them everywhere," Brenner said. "I wanted to bring in what the contemporary voices are saying."
Brenner is firming up plans for regular classes and programs at the store. She does plan on hosting a free storytime at 11 a.m., Saturdays. Brenner hopes to bring in local authors and illustrators on a regular basis.
Weekday classes for preschoolers and grade schoolers, which will require a fee, also are in the works and include topics such as "Tales and Travels" and "Fairytale Feast."
The best place to learn more about the latest on Read With Me's programs and activities are on its Facebook page.