November 18, 2011

The Little Bookstore That Could


For More Than 40 Years, Bank Street Bookstore Has Remained A City Staple For Tiny Readers (And Teachers And Teens, Too)

By New York Family


 

If
you’ve read Goodnight Moon more times than you can count, we suggest
you rally up the tots for a trip to Bank Street Bookstore. A part of the Morningside Heights community for more than 40
years, this charming and independent book nook not only carries a sturdy
selection of extraordinary reads, but also puzzles and games for kids of
all ages.

The shop’s
story began in 1970 with a small space in the lobby of Bank Street College, primarily serving
the college faculty and parents of students in the School for Children. Twenty
years later, the store expanded into its current bi-level location, at the
corner of 112th Street and Broadway, and has grown to be an invaluable
resource to both teachers—who can find supplies and curriculum materials—and literary-minded
parents throughout the neighborhood.

But
let it be known: Bank Street Bookstore is a young reader’s paradise. Kids will
delight in the floor-to-ceiling shelves that are stocked with titles in almost
twenty different languages. Overwhelmed with the possibilities? Narrow it down
by heading to the heart of the store, which boasts a colorful display of carefully-chosen
staff favorites.

If
you’ve got a baby at home or even in tow, you don’t have to wander too far
beyond the first floor. On the second level, content is designated for older
children and teens. It features a wide range of fiction and educational books,
as well as math, reading and logic games. There is even a special area devoted
to reads on life’s more serious subjects like death, bullying and divorce.

And
in a time when many small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open,
Bank Street Bookstore continues to thrive under the leadership of Director
Beth Puffer, who has been with the store for 25 years now. A former early
childhood educator, her time at Bank Street began as a holiday
gig, serving as a short-term break from teaching. She enjoyed her work at the
store so much that she never quite made it back to the classroom.

Puffer
explains that while a large portion of Bank Street’s customer base comes
from the surrounding neighborhood, the store appeals to readers from across the
tri-state area and even around the globe. “We have educators who come from
places like Hong Kong, The Philippines and Australia year after year to shop
here and have books shipped to them back home,” she says. Additionally, many of
the store’s titles can also be found on Bank Street’s website, which is
thoughtfully organized by age and topic, the way most of their in-store
requests are received.

Bank_Street_Bookstore2_as_.jpgPuffer
touts her knowledgeable, well-read staff and their ability to think outside of
the box as one of the key features that distinguishes her store from the
competition. “The staff is the crown jewel of the store. A teacher may come in
requesting materials for a specific curriculum unit, and we’ll not only suggest
non-fiction materials, but also poetry, fiction and different subjects they
might not think of that could expand a child’s vision of the topic,” she says.

And
Bank Street Bookstore is not just a place to buy hardcovers and paperbacks. The
shop also hosts a variety of concerts, author and illustrator events each
month. “We’ve heard over the years what an effect it’s had on children to meet
the author or watch an illustrator create in front of their eyes. It’s like
magic,” Puffer tells us.

Though
faced with a diminishing number of physical bookstores due the proliferation of
e-readers and online shopping, Beth Puffer remains optimistic about the future.
“We hope people will continue to support the idea of sitting with a child,
turning the pages of a book and seeing the original art as it was created. We
hope to be able to continue to be the resource that we’ve been for years. I
think we’re going to be here for a long time.”

We
think so, too.

To learn more, visit bankstreetbooks.com

Photography by Andrew Schwartz


Bank Street Recommends Great Reads Through The Years

AGES 1-3

My Animals by Xavier Deneux
More, More, More Said the Baby
by Vera B. Williams

AGES 3-5subway_sparrow.jpg

Subway Sparrow by Leyla Torres                                              
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Philip Stead

AGES 5-7

Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett
My Father’s Dragon
by Ruth Stiles Gannett

AGES 7-10

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
A Mango-Shaped Space
by Wendy Mass

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