The Bookshelf in Madeira extends love of literacy with Book Angels program

Established in 1975 by three local women, The Bookshelf is a unique bookstore catering to local book clubs and bibliophiles while supporting local authors and many area schools.

“I've been the book buyer here for probably 15 years. And I try just to bring in quality books. I don't bring in, you know, a lot of junk. It's just not who I am. If I don't want to read it, I usually don't bring it,” says Chris Weber, current president of the partnership.

Weber has been involved with The Bookshelf for 24 years. “I came in when my youngest one was going into kindergarten,” she says.

Spreading the joy of reading and getting kids an early start on a path to loving books (not just online material) is a passion of Weber’s. She fields frequent calls from local teachers asking for suggestions on various topics for their classes, and has even helped develop classroom curriculum.

Her favorite part of working at The Bookshelf this time of year is the Book Angels program, which uses donations from store patrons to provide books for underserved children in the community. Weber says that many area children do not even own a book, and that ownership makes books not only more accessible than school or library books, but also makes them seem special to children. She believes strongly that the presence of books in the home encourages children to read, therefore fostering an early love of reading that lasts a lifetime.

“Children that own books have the perception that they're smarter. They do better on tests. So getting books into children's hands at a very young age is really important,” says Weber. “We support Woodlawn kindergarten and John P. Parker. We did the Head Start program there.  We support Embassy Elementary in Deer Park. And then any monies that I have left, I go and I donate classroom sets of books to John P. Parker.”

She also brings collections of books to book fairs at various schools and churches in the area.

“I was just at St. Gertrude’s today. And we were up at Silverwood Presbyterian Church on Wednesday and Sunday. And then the week before that, we were out at Symmes, and then Madeira and then Seven Hills. This fall has been pretty busy,” says Weber.

When she’s not out at a book fair, Weber enjoys seeing the children from the preschool located upstairs peek in the window or come through The Bookshelf.

“We have some students that come in that want books, and they're from families that can't afford it. So we use the Book Angel program to give those kids books as well,” she adds.
The staff at The Bookshelf is adept at helping customers find anything they need. Weber prides herself on staffing the shop with those who love to read and are familiar with the store’s offerings and beyond. She says a lot of them were teachers or former employees of larger book retailers like Joseph-Beth Booksellers.

Weber also strives to support local authors in the community such as Margaret Rogerson, Will Hillenbrand and Loren Long. This is not, she emphasizes, simply because they are neighbors, but because they are some of the best young adult and children’s authors and illustrators in the nation.

“Loren Long lives just a few blocks away, and Will lives in Terrace Park. I always give a big flex to my local authors. We work with them all the time. I think they're the best. I really do. We love story time,” says Weber.

A last minute shopping stop at The Bookshelf this season can do more than just cover any finicky bibliophiles on gift lists. With their genuine love of reading, Weber and her staff have made it easy to simultaneously support local small business, children’s literacy and local authors – all in one place.
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Read more articles by Eliza Bobonick.

Eliza Bobonick is a Cincinnati-based writer and a mother of three. Her work has been featured in such local and regional publications as Cincinnati CityBeat and Kentucky Homes and Gardens Magazine. She is a former musician whose interests include photography and interior design.