Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Inspiration Found! At the book store from a lack of books.

Just yesterday I went to our nation’s premier big box bookseller.  I met an associate of mine over coffee and Chai latte for a small think tank session on “How to Fix the Nation’s Geography Education Problem in 2012”.  Boy did we meet at the right place for an eye opener!  The reference section had a handful of books teaching children how to speak in different languages but the shelves were fairly bare.  And in complete disbelief, of the few books that were there we also noticed that the 2012 editions were lacking the South Sudan update in Africa.  I find it incredibly irresponsible to not even include an insert with the updated information.   

We decided to walk through the children’s section to reference books from there.  Without much luck, we decided to ask the information desk where to locate the geography section.  “We don’t have a geography section” we were promptly told, but I’ll take you to our shelf of atlases.  After getting past the initial shock of that statement and picking my jaw up off the floor, I noticed it was not what I was looking for.  How about craft projects around the world? I asked.  She took us to the craft section where I noticed another shelf that was floor to ceiling jam packed with tutorials on knitting.
After a while we found some books in the “Did you know” shelf of the children’s section.  I wondered who came up with the idea of that label and how those books were picked.  There were approximately 15 books about the city we live in, and then 3 books about the rest of the world interspersed among the others.  We took our small selection and sat down to come up with a game plan.

A while back, I remembered finding what I think is almost bookstore paradise for this particular niche.  Idlewild Books in New York is an independent bookstore dedicated to travel and world literature and is organized by country.  How cool is that?  I start to imagine a bookstore like this for kids, that has age appropriate stories about what it’s like living in another country, and what kinds of foods kids eat around the world, maps and globes (updated for 2012!), posters of landmarks, a language learning lab, a Cheerio-crunching-tantrum-friendly atmosphere.
After day-dreaming and thinking outside of the big box, I bring myself back to the bookstore cafĂ© where we sat and brainstormed some awesome adventures for 2012.  I also thought up a pretty simple fix to this bookstore’s problem:  I know there is a travel guide section, I know they sell volcano kits and other geography games in their toy section, I know they have books for kids on Egypt, I saw books about the rainforest and Mexico, and great intro stories about mapping…  How about dedicating a shelf for these items to be located in one place?  And to call it – Geography?


  1. It's amazing even how many adults know so little about geography. I went to Uruguay for my honeymoon and more than half of the people I told about the trip had no idea where in the world Uruguay is. It's so strange that we've become such a global economy and are so connected with the rest of the world but have no idea where these places are. Thanks for creating such a great educational tool!

  2. Thank you for the kind words Jen! We row the same boat (or kayak in some places) when it comes to geography. :) I bet Uruguay was stunning. Great choice!