While online book buying is an easy go-to, there’s nothing better than scanning the aisles of a local bookstore with your kids. It’s a chance to share your childhood favorites and help them select a book or two they love. Local bookstore shopping offers lots of perks, too; highly curated selections (often recommended by the staff), special events and plenty of lounging spaces that encourage your kids to crack open those newly purchased books. While New Jersey has its fair share of bookstores, we’ve rounded up the ones that cater a lot to kids—just in time to check them out before you start hearing “I’m bored!” this summer.
featured image via @sparksfly.up
Children’s bookstores you need to see to believe
Indigo in Short Hills, NJ
The first U.S. location of the wildly popular Canadian chain, this book and gift spot has one of the largest children’s sections we’ve seen. Step into the colorful and bright space that’s like a store within a store, and find organized aisles by age and reading skill—starting with nursery favorites to chapter book series to a huge selection of young adult and non-fiction for curious kids. You can plan to stop by during author visits (actress and author Evangeline Lilly was a recent guest), special craft-making events and story times, or just come for the on-site cafe, which features kid-friendly treats like PB&J sammies. Don’t worry, they’ve also got Balthazar scones and La Colombe coffee for tired mamas, too.
The Mall at Short Hills, 1200 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills, NJ 07078
Short Stories Bookshop & Community in Madison, NJ
Your littles will feel right at home here by settling into the cozy couch, where reading out loud is definitely encouraged. The space, which hosts open mic nights and displays artwork and crafts from local artisans, is available if you want to host a reading play date. There’s an edited kids section, but if your budding readers aren’t seeing what they want, just ask and they’ll order it for you with (score!) free shipping. Sign up on the email list to learn about events, like a weekly storytelling group for the pre-K set.
23 Main Street Madison, NJ, 07940
Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ
Spend a Saturday morning here during story time (cleverly billed for children and “their adults”), where staff or the occasional guest author reads the latest picture titles in the centrally located kids section. You can sip fresh-brewed Nespresso cappuccino while your kids peruse the extensive shelves filled with local authors and hard to find titles. Besides its colorful kids space, Words stands out for its mission to promote learning opportunities for kids of all abilities, by offering inclusive events, a comprehensive selection of books for and about special needs and expert speakers.
179 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood, NJ 07040
Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ
A lively schedule of children’s author visits, story times for the 2-and-under crew, junior book groups and other fun events like a Where’s Waldo scavenger hunt make this book store a popular favorite for families. The designated great blue room with the starry sky in the back is a place kids can keep coming back to as they grow up—from the toddler listening to a book on a parent’s lap to the high schooler searching for the latest young adult titles in the teen corner. The staff loves to introduce eager readers to new discoveries and often can coax even the most reluctant readers into finding a title that helps overcome resistance.
54 Fairfield Street, Watchung Plaza, Montclair, NJ 07042
River Road Books in Fair Haven, NJ
This charming storefront is the perfect place to pop in before heading to the beach or to make a pit stop on a rainy day. The children’s corner appeals to all ages. Early readers, middles and tweens will find known authors and illustrated classics along with hand-picked new titles (the staff reads them all before selecting), and plenty of clerks are on hand to recommend books based on interests and reading level. Got a kid who likes to make her choices known? Get her to sign up to be an RRB book reviewer, which will encourage reading and writing, and provide a solid foundation for future school papers.
759 River Road, Fairhaven, NJ, 07704