For a fun outing with your child or grandchild, plan a trip to the Learning Tree followed by lunch.Photo by Jennifer Jackson.
Like chopping your own firewood, a trip to a bookstore warms you twice — once, when it gets you out of the house and moving on a winter day, and again when you return home and snuggle up with a new (or pre-read) book. Here are six bookstores to visit in the Kansas City area that will fuel your family's love of reading.
The Learning Tree Not a curriculum supplier, this locally-owned children's toy and bookseller has two stores in the south Kansas City area that are popular destinations for adults with kids. The attraction: a great selection, plus play tables, hands-on toys and a child-sized door that leads into the store through a playhouse. The Corinth Square store has a Rainbow Room for story time (Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.) plus drop-in activities like Mommy and Me coloring. Family game nights, also free, offer stations by age group."It's fun to let people play," says Carol Robinson, whose job title is Toy Expert. Check the website, the-learning-tree.com, for story times and special events at both stores. This season's hot item: Fidget cubes. Gift wrapping is free.
The Learning Tree is located at Corinth Square, 4004 W. 83rd St., Prairie Village, KS, 66208; and Park Place, 11536 Ash St., Leawood, KS, 66211.
KD's Books Named for the owner's two children, now grown, KD's Books is probably as close to a children's bookstore as it gets in the metro area. While the store does carry some games, puzzles and soft toys, the focus is on children's books — “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book," with an iconic '50s cover, is an example. The store also has play tables with a train set and activity boards. For adults, there are shelves of used paperbacks to browse. Adding to its destination appeal: KD's Books is in a charming row of shops facing the Lee’s Summit train depot, with trains rumbling through or stopping to offload passengers. Check out the store's Facebook page for contests — Halloween costume photo, poetry writing, etc.
KD’s Books is located at 241 S.E. Main Lees Summit, MO, 64063.
Rainy Day Books This locally-owned bookshop in the Fairway Shops on Shawnee Mission Parkway offers a selection of new books that goes beyond mass-market best sellers. The size and layout allow adults to browse while keeping an eye on small fry. A fourth of the floor space is devoted to children's books, with a basket of books in a corner to peruse. Copies of "Kids' Next" containing top picks and age-group recommendations are complimentary. The staff is friendly and helpful. "The thing that makes us special is our staff really knows the books," says Becci West, manager. What's also special: Rainy Day Books schedules more than 300 author events a year, at the store and larger venues. Some require a registration fee that covers admission for four people and a copy of the book. Others are no-charge open houses.
Inklings' Books and Coffee Shoppe Originally Parkside Books, Inklings moved to historic downtown Blue Springs two years ago, where it offers good used books plus new books by local authors. The children's section is in the center of the store, enclosed by low shelving, with puzzles and toys. In the same building, with the entrance around the corner on 11th Street, is a two-level coffee shop that carries beverages, gelato and pastries. That's where Inklings, named for the famous British writers’ group, hosts writing groups, poetry readings and book signings, including ones by children's authors. The store also hosts youth group visits for up to 20, and offers activity space for home-school groups. Bring used books to trade for store credit.
Prospero's Bookstore Prospero's is the kind of bookstore you read about in books, where stepping over the threshold is like entering a different era. In fact, "Step Away From the Box" (framed by a '50s television set) is the store logo. The slogan, "Let the right book find you," is a clue to the time you'll want to spend browsing through the shelves of used, rare and out-of-print books on three floors. The store has a sizable collection of children's books, from picture books on up, as well as books for young children to look through while parents browse. Older children will enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies. And if all else fails, there's the promise of the cupcake shop across the street.
Half Price Books Half Price Books has long aisles of pre-owned fiction, mystery, romance and sci-fi, plus non-fiction. The children's section, Half Pint Books, is also spacious and has toys to play with, making it popular with the preschool set. Bargain hunters will like the "Under $3" shelves and the $2 clearance carts in the children's section. Half Price Books also carries some new bestsellers, graphic novels, remainders and recordings, and buys used books and records. Due to store size and number of titles, bring another adult to share child patrol, and a list of authors and titles of interest.
Half Price Books has several locations throughout the Kansas City region. Note: Some stores hold weekly story times and special events. For details online, enter the name of the store, click on its entry and scroll down to In-Store Happenings.
For even more fun with children’s books, venture down The Rabbit hOle While not a bookstore, The Rabbit hOle will be a boon for book lovers when it finds a permanent home. Billed as an "Explore-a-Storium," it will feature exhibits with sets and life-sized figures that allow children to walk through favorite books. In the meantime, The Rabbit hOle is launching a children's literature festival, LitFestKC, in partnership with the Kansas City Public Library and Crossroads Academy. Presenters include Jon Scieszka, ("The Stinky Cheese Man”), Brian Selznick, ("The Invention of Hugo Cabret") and John Bemelmans Marciano, writer/illustrator of four "Madeline" books and grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans. Kids Day is April 28, followed by a conference April 29 for teachers, authors and artists.
Jennifer Jackson is feature writer and photographer who currently resides in Clinton.
Best Bets articles represent the views and the research completed by Kansas City Sprout & About journalists and are not driven by advertising or requests by vendors or venues. Best Bets do not imply an endorsement of a business or activity.