The children’s section at Baker Book House, an independent Christian bookstore in Grand Rapids, Michigan, had been the same since the store’s redo back in 2012. Now the store is revamping the section—and its thinking—on selling children’s products.

Nielson’s research on how children’s books are purchased—seeing the book on the shelf, price, in-store impulse buy—prompted a change in how and what books are displayed.

“If people want to buy in person, we need to capitalize on that. If people are buying on impulse, we need to make that easy,” says Josh Mosey, children’s book buyer.

The store moved picture books to taller, roomier shelves with most covers face out and more visible from the front door. Picture books face a dedicated reading area with comfortable seating for adult-child reading and public story times. Surrounding it are shelves of books for ages 3 to 5, 6 to 8, and 9 to 12.

Books and products for toddlers are shelved behind this area, and there’s a dedicated activity space that includes the store’s famous train table and shelving for toys, plush, and activity-based products. A video-watching area is in place as well.

The footprint for the section stayed the same despite the shelving and seating areas added. The children’s products budget didn’t increase, but the store saw a 20 percent increase in sales over the Christmas season.

Part of the increase is attributed to a 20 percent increase in ABA titles in all age groups, according to store manager Sue Smith. Mosey and assistant manager Darron Schroeder research titles to see how they might fit in the store, plus offer employee comments placed on shelves near certain titles. The Baker Bookworms Blog at offers information, reviews, and author interviews.

“We want to increase our community connection,” says Schroeder. “An engaging story starts kids on the road to reading, so we have to look for those books.”

Baker Book House sees itself as helping create better-informed readers and better-informed parents. Poorly written books that push an agenda—whether ABA or CBA—aren’t on the shelves; good books from either camp are.

“We feel strongly that a safe, good story that is well written is just as Jesus honoring as one that tries to deliver a message,” says Smith. “We want to build lifelong readers who embrace Christian bookstores and maybe bring their own children back one day.”

For more information about children’s products, read “Brands and Board Books: Children’s Products Update.”

— Ann Byle