Just out of curiosity…

If you teach your kids at home (either full-time, or after their classroom education)…what would you like to see at your local bookstore that would help make your job easier?

Educator discount, support group, new shelf organization, particular titles…? I have a few ideas on this but I’m curious to see what you all think.

Showing 38 comments
  • Michele

    I would love to see better organization. Chaucer was positively HIDDEN at the local Borders. I am also dismayed to find “books stores” carrying more exercise videos and video games than books. Oh – it really drives me crazy to take my children to the children’s section to look at BOOKS, and my children’s senses are bombarded by coloring books, sticker books, and stuffed animals!


  • Carrie

    I can’t seem to crack the bookstore code. I can make it in and out of the library with 25 books in 10 minutes, but the bookstore takes an hour for 4 books. Especially in the “teacher’s resource” section, with its numerous 1/4″ books bunched together.

    To be fair, I should probably start bringing my glasses with me!

  • Katie

    More quality children’s literature. The shelves are generally stuffed to overflowing with the comic books, the bubble gum fiction, the predictable plot series books, the “buy a toy/necklace/craft under the guise of buying a book” books, while the “classics” (or some marketer’s idea of “classics”) generally are relegated to one (small) section or shelf. I know that these other books have their place (I enjoy a “beach read” as much as the next person), but I want my kids to love reading great books, too! I usually end up searching for titles for them online, b/c looking for them at Barnes & Noble and Borders can be frustrating. They get too distracted by the flavor of the month.

  • Cleo

    My wish would be to see more good older books that are now being reprinted (Alfred Church, H. E. Marshall, Eva March Tappan, W.H. Weston, etc.), show up on bookstore shelves, not to mention library shelves. Libraries (as well as bookstores) are increasingly stocking their shelves based on entertainment, and not educational value. Most of the libraries in our area have very few books on popular homeschool book lists but they have every DVD imaginable. Surprising, especially considering that we live close to Canada’s third largest city! I’d like to support our local bookstores but end up having to purchase from other sources in order to get good quality books for our children.

  • WTMCassandra

    More classics in the children’s fiction section. How many Potter-style knockoffs do we really need? And fewer “dark” titles. Depressing.

    More curriculum. I dream of a Rainbow Resource center style collection . . .

  • Sherry

    What Michelle said. I’m having trouble finding anything in B&N or Borders because I can’t figure out their organizational system, especially in the children’s section. The books are alphabetized by author’s last name, except for all the exceptions which seem to be the rule. And I can’t figure out the rule. ANd the young people who work there generally seem to know less than I do. I’ve found books
    afte rthey told me they didn’t have them.

  • Karen

    Discount, discount, discount!!! Also more books on tape. As the independent bookstores have gone under in our city, the big chains carry only a handful of audiobooks for kids, and mostly thrillers and/or self-help/business books on tape for adults. We end up ordering a lot on the internet but it is difficult to know exactly what you are getting — sometimes when they are used you end up with an abridged version you definitely didn’t want.

  • Plumfield

    I would love to see a great books list more prominantly displayed with guidelines of approximate age ranges for study. The Well Trained Mind has a wonderful list starting in 6th grade, I believe, but I think it would make it feel more accessible if people could see that this is not honors college level material!

  • Kirsten

    I would love to see them carry more popular curriculum items – i.e. Handwriting w/out Tears books, Story of the World (sometimes see one book out of the four in the series), Spelling Workout, etc. Also more books about homeschooling in general (probably asking for too much, there).

  • Angela

    I would love to see our local Barnes & Noble carry more classic children’s and young adult titles. For some reason, I had to special order all the Rosemary Sutcliff titles in WTM, but could have bought the entire Gossip Girl series right off the shelf.

    Don’t even get me started on how frustrated I am that our local library recently culled the same Sutcliff titles, along with several Eloise McGraw ones.

  • Jenny Wells

    Oh, that I could rent books that are not available at the library. For example, John Mark Reynolds’ book “When Athens Met Jerusalem” that comes out soon…I know there’s others…that I would just like to read, especially as a classical Christian home educator that I can’t find at the library. There’s at least 6 per month that fall in that category.

  • Sarah

    I have an awesome independent children’s bookstore. It is full of a large variety quality books and leaves the twaddle for B&N and Target. A bonus is that they make great recommendations and will order what I need.

  • Tavianna Orlando

    Oh it would be amazing to walk into a bookstore around the corner and think that they might have even one curriculum book I would like to thumb through (besides Story of the World of course). I’m sure it’s a far reaching dream but sometimes it feels like I only get one shot at looking at anything I want – the once a year homeschool convention! And only one day at that! Yes, a Rainbow Resource like section would be outstanding! And I’m always curious why school teacher stores don’t seem to carry any really good publishers either.

  • MJ in Georgia

    I’m with Sarah: Independent bookstores are much more intelligent, not only in how they are organized, but in their selection choices, and many offer great used book sections. I hate to go to the “Mc-bookstores,” especially with my kids, because the twaddle is prominently displayed and sensory overload is in overdrive. Plus, it’s hard for Beatrix Potter and A.A. Milne to compete with the Thomas Train table. 🙁

  • melissa in Australia

    I would like a book shop. the nearest one is over 100km away. how I get my books is send a list (that I get out of WTM) to my closest home-school supplier. They order them in for me.

  • Pam Dolan

    We lived in Portland, Oregon in the early 90’s and spent many rainy afternoons at Powell’s City of Books. I can think of no more perfect set-up for a bookstore: new and used titles mixed together, KNOWLEDGEABLE staff specific to each sub-section, huge attached cafe for browsing books before purchasing, expansive selection on every subject imaginable (ie, entire shelf devoted entirely to the Medieval Mystics, another to running ultramarathons), fabulous author readings, a separate branch store just for cookbooks. I could go on and on. Paradise!

  • Audrey

    Having just moved from Powellsland (otherwise known as Portland) to very, very rural Indiana where there are ZERO bookstores, and only a library whose despicable service and even poorer selection cause frequent family boycotts of the whole affair, I have nothing to add besides wimpers of envy!

  • Heather

    I would like to see all of the most popular curricula in non-sealed wrapping so that I could open the books to look through them. It is frustrating when you actually find curricula in a store (which is a rarity in itself!) to not be able to look through it because it is shrink-wrapped.

    As others mentioned, I would like to have less brain-candy books (which seems to be 95% of our local book store!) and more classics in stock. More organization, too. Our local Barnes and Nobles drives me batty because I have to check five different areas for any book!

  • Victoria

    I think of this question whenever I make a trip to our Border’s and B&N. I wish for more historical fiction. I wish for children’s fiction and non-fiction to be broken down into historical eras or events. This is why I shop Amazon almost exclusively. If I am looking at a book about WWI, Amazon will show me other related books. Amazon makes a lot of money off of me with their spot-on recommendations. The last time I went to B&N looking for books on Greek mythology for my son, I circled and circled, until I found the scant selection in the poetry section.

  • Angie Woodland

    I would like to see better organization and a better selection of “quality” books. It may be that I just can’t find what I am looking for because of the poor organization, but I get very frustrated when I search for books at our local Borders and Barnes and Noble. In fact, I no longer shop there…I do all my shopping on-line. I would prefer to have a place where I could see the books before I buy. Whenever I have asked for help, the clerks look at me like I have two heads. Very frustrating…

  • Maria

    I would like to see all of the books YOU have written Susan in a nice big bundle at a good price!

  • Karen

    I’d like to see actual BOOKS. No stuffed animas, no Thomas the Tank Engine toy section, no “dinosaur egg kits”, and a nice classics section for the kids. I’d like to see more classics in hardback, so they can last for more than one kid. Paperbacks for kids tend to fall apart or are bound horribly. Kids like to read hardcover books.

    I’d like there to be a larger curriculum section in the “homeschooling’ section, rather than just copies of books titled “So You’d Like to Homeschool” or “How to Homeschool”. They need more SOTW, for instance. Or actual English curricula.

    And in the adult section, again, more classics in good binding.

  • Rose

    I agree with Michele and Katie, more quality in children’s books. I really HATE twaddle. Children don’t need that, they need GOOD reads. I also agree with the lady about Amazon. I have gotten several children’s books from them, and they do recommend books based on what you have already bought.

  • Bethany

    I would like to invite all of your commenters to pack up and move right away to suburban Grand Rapids, MI, where my friend runs an unbelievably large, well-stocked, and wonderful Homeschool Bookstore, which is located, of course, in our community’s very large, well-equipped Homeschool Building. Oh, yes, it is Homeschooler Heaven, and it is, of course, where I met and fell in love with Story of the World (along with numerous other wonderful resources). The downside is that I spend way too much money there…

    I know this isn’t helpful. Sorry.

  • Stephanie Brittain

    As a Well-Trained Mind enthusiast, I spend a good deal of time researching and selecting primary sources for writing assignments. I would appreciate a solid compilation of primary sources to line up with The Story of the World series which would eliminate my need to spend time in the tedious selection process. I believe this would be a popular item due to the fact that Jackdaws does not typically offer sources which span hundreds of years and considering the large following of your books. Even though a publication of this type would limit the scope of choices presented in each chapter of The Story of the World, it might also enhance the appeal of The Well-Trained Mind for those who might be getting their feet wet in the Logic Stage and beyond. And, if it isn’t too much trouble, the third installment of your history of the world please! Loved the first one.

  • Rebecca

    Staff who read books, who like books, and who’ve read some of the books in the store and know where they are.

    And a local bookstore would be nice in our rural area (and no, we’re not interested in moving!).

    And if we had such a bookstore, especially if it were an independent, I’d like it to be well-patronized and not in danger of disappearing even without the current economic situation because people prefer the discounts at Amazon et al.

  • ChristineK

    I’d love to have an educator’s discount that applies to things other than workbooks. I’d like to see more classics and less fluff (and for the selection of classics to have less expensive paperback options). I’d like there to be a larger selection of books on cd. Better organization would be wonderful. My BAM store has a big shelf full of DK, Eyewitness and Usborne books, but I can’t find anything because it’s not organized in any way. I’d like for the book stores to carry more books and fewer toys, stationery, movies, cds, and less coffee (the Starbucks at the local B&N recently expanded and took out 4 shelves of books).

  • Colleen in NS

    I would like to see what everyone else said – less fluff and more really good books – titles from lists like TWTM, TWEM, 1000 Good Classical books or whatever that website is called, Sonlight…… I’d also like them to stop playing loud music with words, and start playing quiet music without words – I hate trying to look through books with loud wordy-music distracting me. (We have Chapters and Coles bookstores here) A classical home education support group would be wonderful, too.

  • Julia S.

    I’ll start with what I like about bookstores. I do like the community atmosphere when I go there. The cafe, places to sit, people reading newspapers, and all the many, many books.

    Occasionally, I wish it was a little less chic and more comfortable like going to your favorite aunts house who is worldly, knowledgeable, fun, but always makes you feel at home.

    I agree about the organization. Throwing all the authors together alphabetically doesn’t really count as organization. A directory would help. Also better lighting. Sometimes the cafe theme is spread out to the aisles and you just can’t see the shelves very well.

    I use to be a bookseller so I know how hard this next part is going to be — but knowledgeable staff (especially in the children’s department). Less toys (or maybe save it for Christmas time).

    As a homeschooler I’d like to see more of the titles that are part of the WTM curriculum and Sonlight’s also. I’d like to find more quality books especially for girls (there are a lot of choices, but oh my!)I don’t even have girls, but I cringe when I walk by that section.

    I’d also like if if the staff didn’t look like they had to wear their tolerant face when they spoke to me if they found out I was homeschooling.

    I wish they had more curriculum products that I could buy off the shelf and not have to pay shipping for. I’m tired of shipping fees.

    I would like more authors to visit and have it well publicized in the local homeschooling community or the community in general when they do.

    OK apparently I want a lot.

  • Julia S.

    I just wanted to add one more thing — I’ve been meaning to make this request, and now seems like a the time and place– but I’ve always hoped your mom would write a book detailing her time homeschooling you and your brother and sister. Not so much a how to, but a how it was done.

    I realize she’s very busy, but if she ever wondered if there would be anyone interested in her story the answer is YES!

  • Verity

    I think I would like to see more juvenile non-fiction. I find it easier to look at descriptions of fiction titles in catalogues and know that I would like it. I become frustrated in having nothing else aside from eyewitness books for non-fiction. Non-fiction titles are also pricier, making me more leery of buying sight unseen.

    Surely children in school might be interested in non-fiction titles as well. There are some really neat books out there but they’re not in the bookstores. I even went looking at the non-chain bookstore that is the one to go to, but it had next to nothing. It had all of 1 3ft wide shelf of non-fiction books.

    No wonder children in school find subjects boring if they have no interesting books that can supplement their learning.

    Of course I would like more homeschool material and better organization and a huge leap up in fiction content, but I can scrounge around for fiction titles, so I’m not desperate.

  • Katy

    I would love to see more clubs/groups geared toward homeschool kids. I would also like to see more books geared toward homeschoolers and their interests.

  • Bethany

    Although I already commented, I am back to mention as an FYI for your readers that Barnes & Noble does have an educator’s discount card available. It is good for 20% off *any *book purchase (and perhaps some non-book items?- I don’t remember) as long as the items are “for classroom use”. (Although my whole house is a classroom, I do try not to take unfair advantage of this wording.) They do ask, *every* time. Yes, some clerks will grimace when you tell them you are a *home* educator, but you know, we are used to that, so big deal. Our local B&Ns even do occasional homeschool discount days, with a percentage of profits going to a local homeschool organization if the customer so designates.

  • CarrieMtn

    I would echo many of the other responses but I have one pet peeve. Most employees at the big box book stores don’t know anything about the children’s literature that they have on the shelves.

    Many years ago I worked the children’s section at a great independent bookstore in the SF Bay area. I was required to know what I was selling and be able to advise when asked. Each shift had a children’s expert available at all times. I am so tired of going to a store, paying big bucks for employees who don’t know anything about the children’s department.

    It seems that quality customer service is going out the window. My friend keeps reminding me that we live in a WalMart world and my expectations lean closer towards Herod’s. *grin*

  • Moira


    One thing I found seriously lacking at the book stores were books on Philosophy that were not PH.D level or long pendantic studies on individual philosophers or the typical (and seriously boring) introductionary books. I was looking for something for high school level students that was interesting but more than just a list of facts. Finally, I used Sophie’s World and created a teaching program from it. My student even wrote his own “book” on philosophy. He wrote the book that he thought we would have purchased had it been available. It is humerous, factual, and very interesting. It is still entry level but has the information needed for a beginner philosphy student. A bit like the silly and fun Action Philosphers series but with useful information as well. I also am looking for a book that takes the fallacies he has learned and lets us see them in action. The examples need to current, real and from situations that the students would recognize in real life. I am sure someone could write this book just using the speeches and advertisements, and news programs from the last presidential election. A CD rom/dvd might even be a better option here.

    BTW- Love your books!

  • Sebastian (a lady)

    Book stores that promote reading books. I agree with Michele that when I go into a Borders now, more than half the children’s section is what I would consider a non book. It is a toy with some text attached.
    I remember only ten years ago that stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble were places I could go and discover really great chapter books that were either childhood favorites, new great writing or wonderful re-releases of old classics.

    I’d like to see bookstores promoting thinking and talking about books. I know that there are kids who are capable of having good conversations about books, but it often isn’t cool. A bookstore that created a mental and physical space for this would be growing current and future customers.

    Recommendation lists (ie, shopping lists). This is one of the most powerful tools on Amazon – the ability to make recommendations. I’d love to see lists or shelf tags that recommended books by genre or topic.

    More books. I know that the marketing folks say that the stores sell more books when a higher percentage is shown face out. And there have been times when the front of a book has caught my eye. But I really miss the days not long ago when it seemed like Borders (or that great bookstore in Williamsburg by The Trellis where I first found The Read-Aloud Handbook) had tons of books that I hadn’t known that I *needed* until I saw them. This happens less and less frequently for me. And given my Amazon bills, it’s not because I’m reading less.

    I have a quirky sort of memory that recalls when and where I acquired various books. I remember that I used to find all sorts of wonderful stuff just wandering the stacks. This still happens for me in used bookstores, which generally don’t have enough of one title to waste space on cover out shelving. But it doesn’t happen so often in bookstores (and to be honest, I’m losing the habit of hanging out in bookstores like Borders because I have been able to leave empty handed so often).

  • Sebastian (a lady)

    Oh, I forgot one. One of the highlights of the Borders in Bailey’s Crossroads for me was that it had a large seating area in the children’s section. And yes it had a Thomas train table and stuffed animals. But it was also a place where we could head to after I’d collected an armful of books and let my little ones play a little while I examined the adult books to see if they wanted to come home and live with us.
    This was a really big deal for me when the kids were little. It was sort of shaped like an amphetheatre with carpeted risers. I’m sure that I probably even sat on those risers and nursed a couple of my kids.
    But those were back in the day when the children’s section had a wider and deeper selection of books and even a staff person who knew children’s books and would not only make suggestions but have a conversation about books. I don’t know if my negative impression of bookstores is because they’ve all gone downhill or because we just left Hawaii, where the Borders has few chairs (I think because homeless people were sleeping in them) and a token operated door on the bathroom (tokens free at the info desk, but still it’s the little things that make an impression).
    Our family easily spends over $1000 a year on books (not counting homeschool curricula). It would be nice to feel like the bookstore cared about that. (Maybe I need to spend more time at independent bookstores next time I’m in the US. I think I’m becoming too cynical.)

  • Debbie

    If at a large bookstore ~ a computer “catalogue” so I can pop directly to it (or on line), look up a book, and know exactly where to find it without hunting down an employee or waiting in line at the customer service desk. Laid out something like a “retail” library.

    Also, better signage. Drives me nuts. Yes, they have large on the wall or hanging signs usually, but every store is different and I have to first “hunt” for their form of signage. I want one of those department store maps on a stand right when I walk in the store that is at “eye -level” ~ maybe I’m just too much in a hurry.

    Competitve book discounts locally. I know they have overhead and all, but I generally buy from Amazon on line because I can save on the book about 30% usually. I know I need to support my local book stores and pay the higher price, but it’s hard sometimes. But honestly, I LOVE going to bookstores and would much rather buy from there if more competitive pricees were offered.

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