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Friday, June 7, 2019

The Book Blvd: A Place to Explore, Learn, and Grow…or Just Hang Out

By Cynthia Smith
On the second story at 502 Wyoming Avenue is a cozy space where Shelly Helser is exploring the “second story” of her life and offering a place for others to do the same. 
The Book Blvd is “a community co-share space with a used bookstore inside,” explains Helser, “in between a library and a bookstore.” 
Recently retired from Procter and Gamble, Helser always planned to have a career Act II. “When I entered the workplace in my 20s, I had a plan to get out at age 45; I didn’t want being an engineer to define my whole life. But I wanted to stay with P&G until I could take an international assignment, so our children could experience living in a different culture. After two years in Singapore, I decided it was time to move on.” 

Owner Shelly Helser offers “a community co-share space” with a used bookstore inside at 502 Wyoming Avenue.
The Power of Reading
It wasn’t difficult for her to figure out what her second story would be. Reading “has always grounded me,” Helser says. “At several times in my life when I was going through major changes, books saved me. 
“Our TV broke when I was 10 and my dad said we were not going to get it fixed. Mom put out books for me. One was Firestarter by Stephen King, about a child who can start fires with her mind. She could control her environment, and I could not, so that was a wonderful introduction to the way books can transport you to other places and ways of being.”
“Then after we moved from inner-city Indianapolis to rural Brown County, I was totally isolated in the summers with my parents at work. I had no transportation to get anywhere to do anything, so books saved me again.” 
“In Singapore, where everything was unfamiliar and every day the work challenges were monumental, books allowed me to escape back to a world I was used to, to calm myself and reset my brain in the evenings.”
“No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pick up a book to give your mind space to think and reflect. It is a very powerful thing.”

Stories and the Brain
“There is research that electronic reading does not work the same way,” Helser adds. “One study from Japan (find it on Book Blvd’s website), found that kids who had physical books versus only digital were quicker and better learners of new concepts.”
“Reading is a core cornerstone,” Helser says. “Human beings think and learn in stories. There is a lot of research about this. Brain neurons connect through stories. We are not exposing ourselves to long stories anymore, and we are missing out on this way of learning and growing as humans.” 

Wyoming friends browsing at the Book Blvd, amongst the cozy conversational spaces.
Visit, Work, Hang Out, Find a Treasure
Helser sees Book Blvd as a place where people can connect and interact, in a way different from a library, coffee shop, or typical bookstore. “And with so many people freelancing, this is a clean, quiet space where you can come work or just think,” she notes. 
The store already has many members using the space: professors working from home for the day, a freelancer’s group from Westwood, a group of Wyoming women exploring financial planning, a local young-family looking for alternative evenings out together, and of course, several book clubs. 
Being in the Wyoming Village within walking distance of several schools, Helser welcomes member-family kids to come hang out after school. “There is no pressure for members to be quiet or buy something.”

Find books for $2.00 and furnishing for sale at 502 Wyoming Avenue.
Members Welcome 24/7; Public Thursday through Saturday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. 
If you are a member (there are separate annual membership prices for individuals, families, and students), you can visit the shop any time (you use a code to get in), not just when it is open to the public. Coffee and wifi are free, and you may sell your books in the store. You may also reserve the space for free. The shop has a kitchenette, two bathrooms, and four co-working spaces.
Every book in Book Blvd is $2.00, and 10% of proceeds go to the Lockland, Reading, and Wyoming schools. “I wanted my ‘second story’ to have a give-back element,” says Helser.

The Book Blvd has several events planned, all suggested by members. The first, was in April, was for elementary school-age readers and their parents, entitled ‘Sesame Street to Judy Blume.’ They discussed how, as a parent, you can be aware of how your children are progressing, and how you can help. They also talked about encouraging ‘stretch,’ ‘at level,’ and ‘independent’ reading in children. An elementary reading specialist, local children’s author, and parent sponsored a discussion panel. 
A May 18 event, called ‘Secrets of Cincinnati,’ will be an author visit and book signing. Members get discounted admission to special events.

The Book Blvd has a large inventory of children’s literature.
Sparking Exploration
While online shopping has led to bookstores closing, small ones like Book Blvd are bringing book browsing and reading back to local neighborhoods. 
Helser hopes the store sparks people to ask, “What do I want to learn?” and find books to take them into those avenues of thought and growth. 
“Our product is exploration; books are just the vehicle. If folks immerse themselves, books and a space like this can inspire, and help them find or remember something they were once passionate about.” 

Summer Camps for Tweens: Everything Pet Owners 

Book Blvd will have three summer camps in June for fourth and fifth graders. Each week’s camp starting, June 3, 10, or 17, runs Monday through Thursday from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. 
Groups will have free time for book browsing and hanging out, then work through parts of The Everything Pet Owner’s Organizer book that will be given to students. There will also be a pet-related field trip every day. 
The cost is $100 for the week and space is limited to 10 participants per week. Sign up on the store’s website Events page before May 17 at 

CU @ 502!

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