Go to Barnes and Noble–the one in the Avenue in Murfreesboro. Walk around a bit. Tell me what you see.
Chances are, everything’s pretty normal.
You’ve got mothers and grandmothers in the cookbook section looking at Paula Deen’s books.
There are a dozen hipsters sipping lattes in the café.
All sorts of people are milling around in the self-help section.
You don’t go near the romance section. You have your reputation to maintain.
Teachers and professors swarm the classics.
In the teenage section there are only girls, aside from that one embarrassed boy trying to hide the John Green book he’s about to buy.
In the children’s section, there are children running around and parents trying to catch them. This seems normal. Who else would you find in the children’s section?
See that family that’s not like the others? See them curled up into chairs devouring books? See the girl with the curly hair who’s way too old to be in the children’s section reading Peter Pan?
That’s my family, and that’s me.
As long as I can remember, my family has been going to the bookstore–not to buy books, mind you, but to read them. We go, we scatter to get our books, and we come back to the little stage that they use when they do story-time.
And we read.
I’ve heard that this isn’t the way you’re supposed to use the bookstore, but it’s the way we’ve always used it. It’s like a tradition, now–going to the bookstore to not buy books.
When we were little, I suppose it made sense for my dad to take four children to the children’s section. We’ve grown up, now.
But we haven’t stopped going to the children’s section.
If you look at our family, as you stand in the bookstore, you’ll see an adult (my father), a seventeen-year-old (me), a fifteen-year-old (my little sister), and a twelve-year-old (my other little sister).
If you look on the wall, you’ll see that the shelves are labelled “Ages 6 – 12.”
Only one person in my family fits that range.
“Ages 12 – 47.” Close enough.
And yet we stay in the children’s section. Why? Because it’s the best place to sit. Also, though we may be young adults in age, we’re children at heart.
That is to say, we read the children’s books.
Yes. When we go to the bookstore, I, a driving, working, college-searching seventeen-year-old, a “big girl,” as they say, read the children’s books.
I think we all need to read younger books sometimes. There are times for big, heavy classics. You should be reading those books. Those are books that will stretch your mind.
But sometimes you should also read children’s books. Sometimes it’s healthy to read about Charlie and his very average, very boring life and how a pack of pick-pocketing thieves turned it all upside down. (That’s from The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid.)
If you haven’t ever before, go to a bookstore and pick a book from the children’s section. Pick something fun and easy. Sit down. Read.
Leave the world behind. Leave your worries behind. Leave behind the people who flipped you off on the road. Leave behind the dismal drudgery of politics and current events. Leave behind the swirl of people on the sidewalk who rant and complain and glare and ask what the world’s coming to.
Read about a child. Care about them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Read about their funny problems and their big adventures. Read about how they see their little slice of world.
You can’t do this every day. Reality must be faced. The world is not a children’s book, and it cannot be escaped.
Not for long, at least.
But for an hour, maybe, on a hazy afternoon, after a hard day, you can escape for a little while. Read about a little child and his little problems. See a simpler life.
And when, as you sit in the children’s section, that little boy runs past you with his shoes untied and his jacket hanging off his shoulder, his hair mussed, his shirt wrinkled, his steps heavy and unsteady, his face red from giggling–when he runs by, full of life and laughter, look up from your book, and watch him go.
And tell me, then, that you don’t feel a little better.
I think my family has hit gold with our strange little tradition. Give it a try. Maybe, someday, I’ll walk into Barnes and Noble, and I’ll see you there, in the children’s section, reading a children’s book, sitting in my spot.
I’ll kick you out of my spot, of course, but I’ll be glad you took my words to heart.
(The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid is great, by the way.)