Books by the Banks… and other cool places for little book lovers

This weekend, we went to the Duke Energy Convention Center for Books by the Banks. Books by the Banks is an annual celebration of books and reading that takes place in Cincinnati every October. This day-long festival is free and open to the public, and features national, regional and local authors and illustrators (over 150, in fact), book signings, panel discussions and lots of kid-friendly activities.

Truth be told, we really only went to see Pete the Cat author (and illustrator) James Dean. We love Pete the Cat in our house! Dean read from his new book, Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues, and all three kids sat, enthralled. He told us the story of how Pete the Cat came to be and shared a picture of one of his original Pete drawings. Dressed in a Cat in the Hat-style top hat, Dean juggled, joked and got the kids involved. It was pretty much the best story time ever!

Afterwards, we wandered around at the various activities in the Kids’ Corner: make-your-own tambourines, balloon animals, an interactive instrument demo and a dress-up area with Elvis glasses, poodle skirts and all sorts of hats! Paddington, Curious George and Skippyjon Jones were there, too! This event was a lot of fun — so definitely consider taking your crew next year.

While Books by the Banks is a once-a-year event, there are lots of ways for your kids to learn about literature all year-round! Here are my favorite places in Cincy to take my mini bibliophiles.

Half Price Books

For books both used and new, you can’t beat the prices at Half Price Books. There are several locations around Cincinnati, and each has a sizable kids’ section with books, puzzles, games and even toys! I like to take my kids to HPB and let them pick a book as a treat; we have scored many brand-new titles! The best part is that you can find out-of-print and hard-to-find books. For example, I grew up watching Reading Rainbow, and many of those featured books are no longer readily available. I’ve found several titles at HPB (Koko’s Kitten was perhaps our best find) — in great condition, no less!

Joseph Beth

We absolutely love Joseph Beth. In an age of digital, digital, digital, it’s nice to have a real, brick-and-mortar bookstore around. There are thrice-weekly story times just for kids, plus a giant area with educational toys that kids can play with.

blue manatee

blue manatee is more than a kid’s bookstore; it’s an experience. With weekly events such as bilingual story times, seasonal crafts and author visits, there’s always something going on at blue manatee. I could go on — and I will in an upcoming post! Stay tuned!

Local Literary Heroes

What do Loren Long, Will Hillenbrand and Louise Borden have in common? They all hail from Greater Cincinnati! Getting your kids into a local author is great because it gives them a better sense of place and connection to their city. Plus, local authors are sure to make the rounds at the aforementioned bookstores and events — so your child will likely have a chance to meet their favorites!

Landmarks that Inspired Books

There’s a lot of history here in Cincinnati. On a literary level, we are perhaps most famous for Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the popular and influential Uncle Tom’s Cabin. If your kids are younger, there are several books you can read in lieu of the classic, such as Who was Harriet Beecher Stowe? and Stowe’s own Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Young Folks’ Edition. Afterwards, visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and Underground Freedom Center for a real-life lesson on the book’s historical context.

Books Inspired by Cincinnati

Check out Harriett’s Homecoming, Findlay, A Cincinnati Pig’s Tale, A Cincinnati Night Before Christmas, Santa is Coming to Cincinnati and Santa from Cincinnati for fun reading about the Queen City. Joseph Beth has a huge selection of Cincinnati-themed kids books, and your kids will love hearing about the characters’ adventures in their very own city. Plus, if you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ll recognize many of the landmarks, too (shameless plug alert)!

The Library

We have an awesome public library here in Cincinnati — so take your kids and let them get their own library card! I’ve recently started taking my three to the library every Tuesday after preschool — and they absolutely love selecting books to read during the week. Plus, there are always kid-friendly activities happening at the various branches — most of which are totally free!

For more ideas on how to incorporate reading into your daily routine, check out 5 Ways to Stock Up for Summer Reading — because reading really is a year-round activity.



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