Bookstores are among the few retailers receiving essential business exemptions to continue operating in some form during the new coronavirus outbreak, and Atlanta’s Little Shop of Stories is taking its ability to provide an essential service to heart. On March 27, the bookstore worked with nonprofit Page Turners Make Great Learners and the YMCA to provide 300 books to young readers at no cost.

An anonymous donor who wanted to support the bookstore contributed the funds for the books, which bookstore owner Diane Capriola quickly put to use for middle grade and YA readers. “As a community hub, we help families and individuals stuck in their homes not feel so isolated and alone, not just by providing a source of connection to the outside world, but also by providing them a sense of normalcy, however small or fragile that may be,” Capriola said.

The books Capriola selected, all of which were penned by author Nic Stone, reflect the store’s deep engagement in its community. “Nic is a local superstar, and Little Shop adores her,” Capriola said. “Her books really speak to middle grade and YA readers, and she is an inspiration to all. We wanted to use this opportunity to reach kids who may not know her or her books.”

With Page Turners, Capriola arranged to have books delivered to the YMCA in accordance with CDC guidelines. A book was then placed in a box along with pre-packaged dinners that the centers are distributing to youth across the city.

Reached by e-mail, author Nic Stone told PW, "We are living in unprecedented times, and to know that people are willing to work together to provide young people with body and brain food gives me so much hope. It’s also an awesome reminder of the concern rooted in independent bookstores and how much they care about the communities they serve.”

Stone added that she has been urging fellow readers to buy books online from independent bookstores, something that Capriola is seeing plenty of since she closed her doors to in-store shopping. “Online orders have increased significantly,” Capriola said. “Our regular customers are sending us notes of support with their online and email orders and are really cheering us on. They are grateful that we are still here to help them navigate this time of uncertainty, especially those with school-aged children home for an indefinite period of time. We are so grateful for all of it, including the support of our local government officials who deemed us as essential.”

In the weeks ahead, Capriola plans to expand the services the bookstore offers in the community by working with local libraries to host virtual events, and continuing to find ways to partner with Page Turners.