Name: Bank Street Book Store
Location: 2780 Broadway, New York, NY
Description: Upon walking into Bank Street Book Store, you are greeted by the happy sounds of children laughing and talking. The store design is vibrant and engaging. Picture books and books for young readers line the shelves and colorful classroom items are placed on display. A variety of educational games are also placed around the store for sale, and stuffed animals sit tucked onto corner bookshelves. Chalkboard signs with hand-drawn pictures and foamy letters divide each shelf section and create a playful environment that mirrors the store’s educational motivations.
In visiting Bank Street Book Store, I was fortunate enough to arrange a brief email interview with some of the staff members of the bookstore and with some members of Bank Street College – the organization responsible for running Bank Street Book Store. Thank you to everyone who contributed!
MW: What is Bank Street Book Store’s connection to Bank Street College and how as it grown as a community resource?
BSB: Now in its 46th year, Bank Street Book Store is committed to being a leading source of high quality children’s literature for families and educators in New York City. Owned by Bank Street College of Education, the Book Store began as a small store serving the needs of the College, and has since grown into a beloved resource for customers across the country in search of the “just-right” book for any situation. We have a friendly, knowledgeable staff who love children and books, and they apply their experience with both each time they read, review, and recommend a title.
Lucy Sprague Mitchell founded Bank Street College as the Bureau of Educational Experiments to study children and determine the best environments suited for their learning and growth. Her revolutionary Here and Now Story Book (1921) was based on her observations of children’s language and inspired a more real-world approach to children’s literature in the 1920s. A champion of progressive education—the cornerstone of Bank Street College’s mission—Mitchell wanted young children to have books that related directly to their own life experiences. This title was the first step in her efforts to set new standards for the genre of children’s literature.
Later in 1937, Mitchell established the Bank Street Writers Lab to give her students and up and coming writers and illustrators a space to grow their talent and generate more Here and Now material. Early members of the Lab included legendary authors such as Margaret Wise Brown (“Goodnight Moon”), Maurice Sendak (“Where The Wild Things Are”), and others. Still in place today, the Writers Lab is housed under the Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature, a longstanding division of the Bank Street Library that advocates for the highest quality children’s literature, from infancy through adolescence. The Center has many components, including the annual Irma S. Black Award, which recognizes an outstanding book for young children in which the text and illustrations work together to produce a singular whole.
We stock many of these award-winning titles at the Book Store, which opened on 112th Street in 1970 in step with Lucy Sprague Mitchell’s commitment to children’s literature. Today, our home at 107th St. and Broadway features a special array of diverse, child-centered literature that we place in the hands of millions of children, parents, and educators every day.
The children’s literature legacy of Bank Street can be further explored by viewing the current exhibition “The Picture Book Re-Imagined: The Children’s Book Legacy of Pratt Institute and the Bank Street College of Education.”
MW: How has the digital era affected the success of the bookstore? Are there any special ways you are able to make use of the changing technology?
BSB: Bank Street Book Store is a community bookstore that gets a lot of foot traffic from local families and educators. In addition, customers all over the world browse and order from the bookstore’s collection on our bankstreetbooks.com website. Schools make use of our website’s fundraising wishlist function, which allows families to buy books for donation to children’s classrooms. Parents make birthday wishlists for their children online, too. Our bookstore’s internal operations are fully computerized and we realize major efficiencies as a result.
MW: Have you seen any affects of the digital era in the way children interact with the books themselves?
BSB: We sell e-books on our website, however, parents and children tell us (and industry statistics confirm) that they prefer printed books for children. Most digital platforms are distracting for young readers, who can quickly click away from the e-book they are reading to play games instead. The American Association of Pediatrics has gone so far as to recommend zero screen-time for children under the age of two. We are proud to be part of the movement to keep children engaged with printed, tangible books.