A bicultural children’s bookstore is set to be part of the new Madison Public Market when it opens next year. Libros For Kids, Books for Niños will be part multicultural bookstore and reading center, and part yoga studio for families of all ages.
“In our city, we do not have a children’s bookstore,” says Libros For Kids Founder Araceli Esparza. “We have great libraries and we have bookstores that have awesome children’s areas like Barnes and Noble and A Room of One’s Own. But we don’t have a bookstore specifically tailored to only children.”
Esparza says she wants to provide a space where kids can come in to read, be read to and buy books that are unique to Madison. Providing a space for kids to go that isn’t a big pizza place with an arcade and isn’t set up like other entertainment centers is important to Esparza.
“I want to provide a space where kids can come and explore books, maybe buy books and have an experience that is totally different than going to a pizza place with video arcades or a jumping obstacle place,” Esparza told Madison365. “Those places are all great but we need things that also intellectually stimulate our children and engage them and that teach them something that is a lifelong skill. The accessibility to books is really important.”
The bookstore will be primarily focused on young children’s books. Esparza is concerned that illiteracy in children is something that can’t continue to be tolerated.
“A lot of kids don’t get evaluated for ability to read and make vowel sounds and have basics for reading and being able to have a picture in their mind for what they are reading by Kindergarten and first grade,” Esparza said. “And so they start behind and it gets exasperated as time goes by and by the time they are in high school it’s just a huge gap. This is most pronounced among children of color.”
Closing achievement gaps among children of color start with the basics of reading, according to Esparza. She wants to have the bookstore be bilingual and bicultural to specifically draw in the types of children who most need reading basics.
In addition to a place to read she envisions Libros for Kids to be a place for the whole family to relax. Esparza is currently training as a yoga instructor and wants to have a studio for yoga and relaxation as part of the bookstore.
Esparza has spent the past several years being a teaching artist in both New Jersey and Madison. She has taught at several different schools in the Dane County area mostly around teaching about cultural things like Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
“I am typically contracted to present to schools and read them stories and go through activities that present the Day of the Dead holiday in a non-threatening environment,” Esparza says lightheartedly. “I think the impact has been mainly positive. I have seen some resistance from administrators simply because they are not familiar with the holiday celebrating people who have passed or died. What led me to want to be part of the Public Market was because I wanted a place where people can visit me all year round versus just during one holiday season.”
Esparza also wants multicultural kids to be able to see themselves actually represented, rather than the way “others” are often portrayed in popular fiction and graphic novels.
“In a lot of science fiction or things like that it’s always like the ‘purple people’ are the slaves or the outcasts,” rather than actual people of color, she says. “And that gives kids (who look different) the ideas of oppression and that they’re different. So they’re like the ‘purple slave people’ in the book, and we need to have an awakening in terms of that. I am passionate about increasing readership among children of color. I am a big advocate for multicultural children’s literature.”
With the advent of e-books and online retail, bookstores, in general, are having difficulty surviving in Madison and around the country. But Esparza hopes having an entire store just for kids will present enough of a break from the norm to be successful.
“I’ve been asking a lot of bookstores questions,” Esparza said. “They’ve been saying it’s going to be really hard. But my business idea is enjoying that kids are reading!”