The Best Children's Bookstores in NYC
Only a small number of dedicated children's bookstores exist in NYC—Books of Wonder and Bank Street Bookstore, we're looking at you!—but there are several other indie stores with impressive children's sections. Many of these children's bookstores host kid-friendly activities, including read-alouds, author events, and writing workshops.
My kids have a particular weakness for books, possibly because it's the one thing I never deny them—as evidenced by the overflowing bookshelves at home. We love exploring new-to-us, local shops and spending lazy afternoons getting lost in the stacks, so we've rounded up some of our favorite children's bookstores around the city.
Whether you're shopping for a birthday gift or looking for a local storytime, these independent neighborhood bookstores are great bets for NYC families.
Special storytime events are super popular at Astoria Bookshop.
Astoria Bookshop — Astoria, Queens
31-29 31st Street
This local Queens shop hosts a popular storytime on Thursday mornings for the toddler crowd. Special storytime events are also often held on the weekend, and there's a popular Young Writers Workshop for the slightly older group (ages 8+) on select Sundays.
Bank Street Bookstore's fantastic staff help you find what you are looking for and other books you might enjoy.
Bank Street Bookstore — Upper West Side
2780 Broadway at 107th Street
I have a special fondness for the Bank Street Bookstore. I'm always able to find what I'm looking for—from bestsellers and new releases to fabulous finds not available at big-box retailers, thanks in large part to the amazing staff that possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of all things books. It was here that, with the help of a bookseller, I was able to find the perfect book that helped open a dialog with my kids about dealing with the loss of a loved one. A difficult topic to be sure, but I was grateful for the comforting pages we read together, and it provided something solid that my kids could (and did) reach for on their own. This kid-lit haven offers fantastic reads, themed toys, activity books, and more, and offers weekly events that include storytimes, author readings, and puppet shows.
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Curl up in a reading nook at Books are Magic. Photo by Louise Trapasso
Books Are Magic — Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
225 Smith Street at Butler Street
The closing of Book Court at the end of 2016 left many in the community saddened at the loss of this neighborhood gem, including local author Emma Straub. She got straight to work hoping to fill the void and opened Books Are Magic in May 2017. The shop includes a large children's section and hosts lots of events and storytimes, because as Straub put it before opening, "That's really why we're doing it ... we needed a place to bring our kiddos!" Follow the store's happenings on Instagram and Twitter.
Curl up in one of the multiple cozy reading spots at Book Culture. Photo by Sonia Gonzalez
Book Culture — Multiple Locations
Visit the website for a complete list of locations.
The Broadway location of this neighborhood bookshop has a lovely children's room on the lower level. In addition to a wide variety of books and educational toys, you'll find kid-sized tables and chairs and lots of communal playthings, which encourage families to linger. My kids and I are regulars. Book Culture also hosts lots of events for kids, including FREE storytimes in multiple languages at the Broadway location. Check the calendar for upcoming events.
Visit Books of Wonder for its storytime.
Books of Wonder — Flatiron, Upper West Side
18 West 18th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
217 West 84th Street at Broadway
NYC's largest and oldest children's bookstore sells new titles, beloved classics, and even out-of-print tomes. But it's so much more than a bookstore; it's a place where kids become bookworms. At its original Flatiron location, large, exposed columns are surrounded by cushioned seats and throw pillows, inviting families to settle in for a good read. The shop has a famous Oz section to peruse, an exhibition area with original kid-lit illustrations and frequent FREE events, including storytimes and regular high-profile author readings for tots to teens. In 2017, the decades-old business opened a second location uptown. Check the online calendar for a complete list of upcoming events.
Curl up with a book on a rainy day at Boulevard Books.
Boulevard Books — Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
7518 13th Avenue
Boulevard Books was born of a local's wish to create a community gathering space in her home 'hood. It downsized in 2015, making room for Pinot's Palette in the store's former cafe area. You'll still find an excellent selection of children's books, and Boulevard Books often hosts painting classes for kids at Pinot's Palette. Check its events page for upcoming events and classes.
Greenlight Bookstore — Multiple Brooklyn Locations
686 Fulton Street at South Portland Avenue
632 Flatbush Avenue at Fenimore Street
Greenlight Bookstore opened its second location in Prospect Lefferts Gardens in 2016. Both sites offer a vast selection of books, including excellent children's sections. Greenlight also hosts many events for kids, including regular storytimes with local luminaries, children's authors, illustrators, kids' musicians, and performers. There's also a Young Readers Book Group geared toward ages 9-12.
La Librairie des Enfants — Upper East Side
163 East 92nd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues
This bookstore is dedicated to kids—and everything French! Founded by a pair of France natives, including a mom and an ex-librarian, this unique spot dedicated to French titles is really a hybrid: part library, part store, part community hub. It offers memberships to check out a set number of books each week, as well as a store for purchasing books and toys. It also hosts regular family programming, including marionette puppet shows and a French language and storytime program.
McNally Jackson Books — Multiple Locations
Visit the website for a complete list of locations.
We've been long-time fans of the original location in Soho, which is a spacious two-story bookstore boasting a children's nook stocked with famous classics and lesser-known indie titles. It's expanded to include locations in the Seaport District, Williamsburg, and at The Shed in Hudson Yards. The freestanding outposts each host regular readings and author events for kids.
powerHouse on 8th — Park Slope, Brooklyn
1111 Eighth Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets
A cozier offshoot of the loft-like powerHouse Arena in Dumbo, this bookstore has an excellent children's book section and hosts all of the mini-chain's events for kids. Every Sunday morning, there's an activity-packed storytime, often starring local kid-lit authors reading their work or Brooklyn musicians playing their songs. The shop also hosts a monthly book club for tweens and young teens.
Lupita makes an appearance at Strand. Photo courtesy of Les Éditions Quel Toupet
Strand — Union Square
828 Broadway at East 12th Street
Born in the 1920s, the Strand is a verifiable NYC institution selling "18 miles" of books, including an eclectic children's selection. It also buys and sells New Yorkers' gently used editions at discounted rates. Parents in-the-know check the Strand's event calendar regularly for its upcoming storytimes and character visits from beloved children's books, including Madeline, Clifford, Splat the Cat, and, over the holidays, the Grinch. The store also periodically hosts pop-up shops around the city, has kiosks in Central Park and Times Square, and is currently planning to launch a second location on Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd streets.
The Lit. Bar — South Bronx
131 Alexander Avenue, between 134th Street and Bruckner Boulevard
With the closing of a beloved Bronx Barnes & Noble in 2017, the borough was left without a bookstore—big box or independent. So Bronx native Noëlle Santos worked hard to change that. After her second-place finish in the NYPL & Citi Foundation's NYStartUp! Business Plan Competition, Santos launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a brick-and-mortar bookshop. The campaign surpassed its goal with more than 1,800 donors. Opening its doors on April 27, 2019 (National Indie Bookstore Day), Santos' ultimate vision caters to all ages and interests and even includes a wine bar! Check out the shop's upcoming events on Instagram and Facebook.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the stores
A version of this post was originally published in September 2012. It is updated regularly.
Places featured in this article:
Bank Street Bookstore
Book Culture on Broadway
Books of Wonder
McNally Jackson Books
powerHouse on 8th
La Librairie des Enfants