A “book desert” is an area with extremely restricted access to books, particularly for children. This may be caused by a number of factors, including poverty, a lack of funding for schools and libraries, and geographic isolation. Book deserts can have a substantial impact on youth literacy rates and educational outcomes. Children who grow up in “book deserts” may have limited exposure to reading materials, which might make it challenging for them to learn to read and limit their educational and career opportunities down the road.
Bookstores can help people living in book deserts to access print materials. While online bookstores have the advantage of providing a wide range of books, physical bookstores create opportunities for daily book-buying and also create community spaces. Bookstores can serve as a hub for the local community to host events, gather, or partner with community organizations. Based on the concept of “third place,” which sociologist Ray Oldenburg first introduced to describe places that are neither home nor a workplace that provide a space for community and belonging, bookstores can serve as third places for people in the community.