Last year, a Borders store opened up down the street. Since then, I have had a few complaints from my students about them (see here and here). But today, two of my students brought up separate events they had experienced at our local Borders which annoyed me a little. Obviously, as a passionate language arts teacher I work extremely hard at getting my students to become readers (and hopefully lifelong readers). So it really irks me when a sales associate who does not know my students makes a judgement about their reading.
Case in point #1– One of my students is having a hard time finding books that she likes. We have been working very hard and she is being a really good sport about finding books and giving them a try. She just hasn’t found that spark or connection yet. Recently she went to Borders in search of some books, hoping to find that perfect book. Apparently, a sales associate approached her and began giving some suggestions. In theory, I LOVE this idea. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out for her. When my student got up the nerve to say that she was interested in reading Twilight , the associate said no! According to my student, the associate said, “That’s not an appropriate book for you. That’s a book for girls who like romance. Why don’t you try and read that in a few years?”
Excuse me!? First of all, my student had her mother with her. I support telling the mother what the book is about, letting her make the final choice. But what right does a bookseller have to tell a tween that she shouldn’t read a book sold in the YA department? There is no sex, no cursing, and by all accounts Meyers wrote a pretty tame book by YA standards. And if a 12 year old wants to read a book, why discourage her?! My student was so upset she left without any books at all. The bookseller made her feel like she wasn’t mature enough to choose her own books. UGH.
Case in point #2– A different student is flying through the Cirque Du Freak series. He is thrilled about the upcoming movie and comes in everyday to share news and tidbits with me. I only have the first four books in the series in my classroom library, so he went to Borders to purchase the remaining 12 books. When he couldn’t find them on the shelf, he asked for help from a sales associate. The associate checked the computer and then told he, “No one reads those books so we don’t stock them. We stock books that sell well and no one is interested in those”. When he protested and explained that the movie would be coming out in 2009 and that a lot of kids in his class love them, the associate responded that the movie wasn’t going to do well and then turned away! No offer to special order them, nothing! Can you imagine?! Who says that to a teenage boy who is reading? And requesting books! At a bookstore!
So he went to Barnes and Noble, who apologized that they were sold out and immediately placed a special order for him.
It’s things like this that only further discourage tweens/teens from reading. And it’s why I wish we had independent bookstores around here!