Just for kids: New book shop opens at Bronx museum


A new bodega opened last week, but don’t expect to find coffee or cigarettes — this one only sells children’s books.
Situated at the heart of the Bronx Children’s Museum, The Book Bodega is not just one of two bookshops currently serving the Bronx, it’s the first dedicated solely to children’s literature.

Jessica Jackson, director of student programs and education at the museum, said the idea for the Bodega originated about a year ago, as part of the museum’s commitment to enhance literacy in the Bronx. Securing a partnership with The United Way of New York City was pivotal, aligning with their mission to provide books and promote book ownership to children around New York.

The grand opening on June 4 was marked by the distribution of more than 120 free books to young readers, as well as the launch of Cesaria Feels the Beat, authored by the museum’s executive director, Denise Adusei.
Jackson noted the response from the local community was overwhelmingly positive, and there is still “sheer excitement by anyone who passes by the exhibit.”

Visitors to the Book Bodega will appreciate the museum’s innovative approach to promoting literacy; alongside every exhibit is a stack of related literature for readers of all stages. Kids can also take a moment to rest and recharge at a larger book nook — curated by the Children’s Book Council — featuring topics ranging from pet dragons to parents’ divorce.

The opening of The Book Bodega comes at a crucial time. Since the closure of the last Bronx Barnes & Noble in 2016 due to rising rents, access to books within the borough has been limited. Lit Bar in Mott Haven remains the only other permanent bookstore, and local libraries have struggled to maintain consistent accessibility.

According to a 2019 report by Literacy, Inc, the Bronx holds some of the lowest literacy rates in the city, particularly among its youngest residents. The Book Bodega aims to narrow this gap by providing an immersive space where every visual aspect, from decor to book selection, is designed to captivate young readers.
Inside the Book Bodega, reading could not seem much more exciting — children encounter a vibrant environment complete with shelving reminiscent of grocery aisles, adorned with a painting of a signature bodega cat by South Bronx artist and author C.G. Esperanza.

Even for kids who haven’t yet mastered reading on their own, Jackson stresses the value of early exposure to books and illustrations in developing reading skills. By featuring books that celebrate diverse backgrounds and family structures, the museum hopes children will find themselves reflected in the stories they read.

Highlighting the community-centric nature of the Book Bodega, Jackson noted the majority of the books are authored by New Yorkers, some of whom have visited for readings. This includes Jackson herself, whose book, The Otter in Charge — which addresses conflict resolution — is featured in the store.

In parallel with the museum’s efforts, Latanya DeVaughn, a Bronx native, mother of three, and founder of Bronx Bound Books, is also addressing the borough’s literacy gap. Her mobile bookstore, housed in a refurbished bus, appears every Sunday at the Riverdale Y Farmer’s Market, and travels between schools, book fairs and markets throughout the week.

DeVaughn is also running an ongoing GoFundMe campaign to establish a brick-and-mortar location. Last fall, her van was stationed at a kiosk in the Bay Plaza shopping center, the former home to the Co-op City Barnes & Noble, where it sold out every day.

Jackson believes the success of non-traditional bookshops like The Book Bodega and Bronx Bound Books could inspire similar initiatives in other parts of the city, especially among younger audiences.

“Our dream would be to see more of these spaces open and accessible for families all over the city,” she said. “So we hope this is just the beginning of that conversation.”

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