Free storytimes at NYC bookstores
We've rounded up complimentary kid-lit reading series for every day of the week.
Thu Dec 16 2010
Photograph: Etienne Frossard
Housing Works Bookstore
The HIV/AIDS charity's bookshop hosts a popular half-hour gathering each week. The store's regular reader, Rachel, shares picture-book favorites like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Hippos Go Berserk; guitar-strumming Nancy leads the group—some 30 kids, most of them under a year old, plus their caregivers—in "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Wheels on the Bus" sing-alongs. Rows of chairs leave limited floor space in front, making for a less-than-intimate, though festive, atmosphere.
Best for Gregarious music lovers: The sheer size of the crowd could be intimidating to meeker souls. Mon at 11:30am. 126 Crosby St between E Houston and Prince Sts (212-334-3324, housingworksbookstore.org). Ages newborn to 3 years.—Beth Greenfield
Boulevard Books & Caf
Store owner Tatiana Nicoli greets every child by name and sometimes organizes an art project as part of the session. The storytime usually attracts up to 20 kids during the school year, and double that in the summer.
Best for Public speakers--to-be: Each child is called upon individually to answer questions about, for example, shapes or colors. Tue, Sat at 11am. 7518 Thirteenth Ave between 75th and 76th Sts, Dyker Heights, Brooklyn (718-680-5881, blvdbooks.com). Ages newborn to 7 years.—Van Sias
On the main floor of the publishing giant's Soho flagship, the easygoing storyteller might ask older tots for assistance in turning pages and moving interactive book parts of Scholastic-catalog titles like The Wheels on the Bus, Hot Rod Hamster and The Sea of Sleep.
Best for Short attention spans: Fifteen minutes after children settle into their primary-color floor cushions, the reading's over. Daily at 11am. 557 Broadway between Prince and Spring Sts (212-343-6166, scholastic.com/sohostore). Ages 18 months to 4 years.—Marissa Patlingrao Cooley
Kids sprawl on the furry carpet, clap in nannies' arms, and paw the baby toys in the big cardboard box at owner Yuval Gans's storytime and sing-along. RSVP (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your kids' ages so he can plan accordingly: PS aims for a 2 to 5 crowd, but will roll with droolers and crawlers.
Best for Social butterflies. Kids will need to make nice with fellow storytimers, who sit thisclose to each other. Thu at 4pm. 76 Front St at Washington St (718-222-3340, psbnyc.com). Ages 2 to 5.—Jen Nails
Pull up a tiny chair and join the dozen or so lit-lovers squeezed in the children's section for Family Hour. Enthusiastic staffers dream up fun themes—like Crazy Cats or Pirate Talk—and read related tales. A mix of newly released picture books and the likes of Sendak and Seuss keep everyone enthralled till the crafts come out.
Best for English majors in the making: Readings run at least 45 minutes. Thu at 3:30pm. 828 Broadway at 12th St (212-473-1452, strandbooks.com). Ages newborn to 5 years.—Clare Lambe
McNally Jackson Books
A wiggly scrum of 20-odd babies and toddlers crowd the chic indie shop's lower level. Half of them spend the 30-minute storytime crawling, cruising and pulling titles like How the Irish Saved Civilization off the shelves of the surrounding history section; the other half are too young to venture off their parents' laps. Spirited storyteller Stewart Dawes's booming delivery of picture books like Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb and Daddy, Papa, and Me is capped off with some sing-along time.
Best for The Baby Bjrn/Ergo set (stroller parking is tight). Fri at 4pm. 52 Prince St between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts (212-274-1160, mcnallyjackson.com). Ages newborn to 2 years.—MPC
It's the best-kept secret on the upper Upper West Side. BC's warm, animated staff leads a themed story session ("My New York," for example) in the cozy downstairs space. Just show up, and they'll cater their titles to your tot.
Best for Conversationalists: Readers may stop mid-page to ask, "Who's been to NYC's Penn Station?" Sat at 3:30pm. 2915 Broadway at 114th St (646-403-3000, bookculture.com). Ages 2 to 7.—Jen Nails
A major neighborhood hub for bookish Brooklyn adults, Greenlight is no slouch when it comes to enriching youngsters, either. Its popular Saturday morning story program may incorporate anything from crafts and music to yoga; the one constant is top-notch kid-lit.
Best for Fan girls and boys: Local authors and illustrators—Tad Hills, Rhoda Levine, Maya Gottfried and Artie Bennett among them—often make guest appearances. Sat at 11am. 686 Fulton St at South Portland Ave, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-246-0200, greenlightbookstore.com). Ages 3 to 8.—VS
McNally Jackson Books
Soho's indie darling has it all: an impeccably designed interior, thoughtfully selected titles and, among a slew of other events, a whopper of a weekend storytime. Depending on the size of the group, the gathering meets either in the history section downstairs or at tables in the street-level, sun-drenched caf. The tireless Yvonne Brooks chooses under-the-radar picture books and creative craft-time materials like tulle scraps, magazine images and sparkly pipe cleaners.
Best for Lit snobs: No Disney princess titles or Nick Jr. books at this session. Sat at 11:30am. 52 Prince St between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts (212-274-1160, mcnallyjackson.com). Ages 3 to 8.—Nicole Caccavo Kear
Books of Wonder
Sure, there's a simple craft project at the end of the reading session—and an on-site Cupcake Caf. But the big draw here is the literary lineup. Staffers start with a supershort book for any under-3s in the crowd, then move on to picture books (a mix of familiar and lesser-known tales) centered on a loose theme. The program attracts a good-size gathering, but the vibe is mellow and inviting. Budding bookworms sit cross-legged on the carpet, take in the tales, then discuss what they've heard.
Best for Traditionalists: It's storytime the way you remember it, and with some of the same books (Corduroy fans, rejoice). Sun at noon. 18 W 18th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-989-3270, booksofwonder.com). Ages 3 to 8.—NCK
The Fort Greene shop's second weekend session caters to the littlest lit lovers: Miss Fiona Bloom reads stories and Miss Nina Stone leads book-themed sing-alongs.
Best for Multitaskers: Near the inviting reading area, children will find a giant teddy bear just right for snuggling, as well as a large cardboard playhouse. Sun at 11am. 686 Fulton St at South Portland Ave, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-246-0200, greenlightbookstore.com). Ages newborn to 3.—VS