Powell’s Books in Portland is getting kids excited about reading.

By Elizabeth Sile
Updated September 05, 2017
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Kids say the darndest things at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, where they have the chance to write book reviews that are used in store.

The company started its Kid Picks program four years ago at its flagship location, Powell’s City of Books, as a way to reach beginning and reluctant readers. Managers noticed that while parents were very excited to share their favorite children’s books with their sons and daughters, the kids themselves preferred to read what their peers were reading.

So managers created “shelf-talkers” (bookstore speak for the small signs that call attention to particular books, via staff recommendations and the like) to display reviews written by kids, and then subsequently began posting photos of the signs on Instagram and Twitter. The team kept blank shelf-talkers in the kids’ section and at the store’s info desks, so any kid could write his or her recommendation. The reviews started pouring in.

Kid Picks has been a popular program at the store ever since. Powell’s eventually added a separate Teen Pick program for young adult novels, and Powell’s managers say adults even use the recommendations when buying gifts for kids or books for themselves. But most importantly, the program has given kids a platform to talk about reading.

“Kids have very honest, direct opinions about what they like and dislike, and having the opportunity to provide space for that is really incredible,” says Emily, the Powell’s employee who maintains the Kid Picks. “These are the voices of the next generation, and knowing that they’re excited about reading is really heartening in a world where technology often reigns supreme.”

Here are some of our favorite endorsements from Powell’s youngest shoppers.

The Garfield Series, by Jim Davis: For those looking for “collectebuls!”

Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier: For fans of ghosts.

Space Case, by Stuart Gibbs: For those who want a very awesome book with a very honest review.

Keeper of the Lost Cities, by Shannon Messenger: For adults and kids alike.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, retold from the Jules Verne original: For those who want to read the highest-rated book...ever.

Winter According to Humphrey, by Betty G. Birney: For those who want to get the hiccups.