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“We believe in the power of books to enlighten, inspire, and transport readers to different worlds, and we strive to make sure that every customer finds their own treasure on our shelves.”

Books4Brains in Comox, BC is a Canadian independent bookstore for the whole family. The store is known for its varied selection, stellar staff, and community engagement. We spoke with Melissa Agnew, store founder and owner, about how Books4Brains came to be, how she decides what to stock, and her vision for the store’s future.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the store and what inspired you to found Books4Brains?

Books4Brains (B4B) was born out of a desire to make a meaningful impact on the community. I conceived the idea while I was on maternity leave with my second child. B4B offers a thoughtfully curated selection of books specifically tailored to children and young adults. While the primary focus is children's and young adult literature, I didn't want to exclude adult readers, so I included a curated section of adult books. This ensures that Books4Brains caters to all family members, making it a one-stop shop for the family's literary needs.

Through Books4Brains, my aim has always been to foster a love for reading in the community and create a place where families can find modern, relevant books that cater to everyone's tastes and preferences. Over time, the store has become an integral part of the community, providing an enriching environment that nurtures the minds of both young and old.

What treasures can readers expect to find on your shelves? How do you decide which books to stock?

At B4B, readers can expect to find a carefully curated selection of books. We stock a diverse range of books from award-winning authors, both mainstream and independent, and including titles that promote inclusivity, empathy, and understanding. As for the adult section, while it might be smaller compared to the children's section, it's just as thoughtfully curated. It includes a variety of genres, from mystery and romance to science fiction and biographies. 

The process of deciding which books to stock involves thorough research and community input. We consider factors such as the book's relevance to our clientele and its alignment with our core values of promoting quality, diverse, and inclusive literature. My own experience as a parent and a reader also plays an important part in the book selection process. We believe in the power of books to enlighten, inspire, and transport readers to different worlds, and we strive to make sure that every customer finds their own treasure on our shelves.

Photos of Books4Brains including the store window display and table displays

Can you tell us about some of the ways you create a sense of community with local readers?

We have several initiatives in place to engage with our community, and our B4B Reading Program is one of the most cherished among them. 

The B4B Reading Program has been designed to inspire young readers and help ensure that every child in our community has access to high-quality literature. For the past two years, we have been providing every kindergartner and grade 1 student in School District 71 with three new free books before spring break. This not only encourages a love for reading at an early age but also fosters a sense of equality, as all children, regardless of their family's economic status, get access to the same books.

We understand the transformative power of books, and we believe that by providing these children with their own books, we are promoting literacy, sparking creativity, and helping them start their own personal libraries. Seeing the excitement and joy on a child's face when they receive their books is a truly rewarding experience, and we're grateful to be a part of their reading journey.

By providing a safe, welcoming space where families can explore the world of literature together, we strive to make B4B a cherished part of our local community. We believe in the power of books to connect people, and we will continue to find ways to bring people together through shared stories and experiences.

What is your vision for the store’s future?

In the future, we plan on incorporating a wider variety of craft supplies into our product range. Recognizing that creativity isn't limited to the written word, we want to provide materials that inspire our customers to express their creativity in different forms—be it through drawing, painting, or crafting. We believe that having access to these supplies will encourage our young patrons to explore and develop their creative skills. 

We're also planning to include a larger selection of family games. Board games, strategy games, and educational games can stimulate cognitive abilities and motivate cooperative play. They're a great way to bring families together and create lasting memories, and we believe they complement our vision of B4B as a place for families.

Moreover, we aim to expand our range of science and educational materials. Whether it's science kits, educational toys, or books that ignite curiosity about the world around us, we want to support our young customers in their quest for knowledge. Providing these resources can make learning fun and interactive and can help kids see the practical application of the concepts they read about.

Ultimately, our vision is to create a space that goes beyond being a bookstore—a place where families can come together to read, learn, create, and play. We're excited about the future and we're looking forward to growing and evolving with the needs and interests of our community.

What is something our readers might be surprised to learn about Books4Brains?

One surprising fact about Books4Brains that many readers might not know is the sheer dedication behind its operation. As the founder and owner, I successfully juggle multiple roles—as a full-time nurse, a mother of two young children, and the driving force behind the store.

Another surprising fact is that B4B opened its doors in October 2019, just a few months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges that came with the pandemic, such as health and safety measures, supply chain disruptions, and fluctuating consumer behavior, Books4Brains not only survived but thrived. We adapted and could count on the unwavering support of our community. It stands as a reminder of the human capacity for resilience in challenging times and the power of community.

Lastly, Books4Brains is entirely a labour of love, built from scratch. Every detail, from the selection of books to the layout of the store, reflects my vision to create a space that promotes a love for reading and provides a sense of belonging.

Behind the inviting facade of Books4Brains lies a story of perseverance, passion, and an undying commitment to the community. It's these factors that make Books4Brains not just an independent bookstore, but a thriving community hub.

Photos of Books4Brains including stocked shelves and book displays


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We wish to acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.

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