On a beautiful sunny day in May I went to meet Rachel, owner of Rogan’s Book shop on Castle Lane in Bedford. It’s an area steeped in history as it’s so close to the Higgins museum, and on the up with lots of regeneration, new shops appearing, and a wide range of restaurants (some by the river) all within walking distance of her book shop.
Since moving here from her previous location on Castle Road in 2017, business has quadrupled thanks to the support of the vibrant community around her. She tells me it was a difficult decision for her to leave her old location where she had been since the store opened in October 2015 as the people of Bedford had supported her to open all those years ago and the goodwill was amazing. She had over £1000 in book vouchers from the local community just to start the book store and business was great, but the original store suffered badly from mould and damp, not great for books!
I think the decision to move was a good one, the new store looks spacious and welcoming, with lovely high ceilings and room to move around easily. Some book shops are so overcrowded and stuffy but Rogan’s is not at all. There is room on the shelves for the books to earn their space and be displayed properly, I think that takes some confidence to do. It would be so easily to take every new book that a publisher says will be the ‘next big seller’ but Rachel doesn’t do that and you can tell she is confident in her choices as she feel passionate about every item she stocks.
To be honest depth of range is not what this store is about, you can search for 1000 of books online or in larger book stores at a cheap price and yes you will find something eventually, but will you have found the right book? Did you get the help and advise you needed and did the staff (or internet screen!) help inform your choice? Probably not? If you want to find something different for your child, or you want your child to be inspired by a new book they may never have picked up before then this is the place to come. You get personal service, an element of risk removed from your purchase (Rachel has read all the books on the shelf) and you get to talk to Rachel herself the reason why parents and children come back again and again. Have a look at these 5 star reviews and see for yourself.
Rachel Rogan is a charismatic and endearing lady. A mother of two children herself, she wants all children to be comfortable in the world they live in, and she knows how challenging this can be. In today’s society, many pressures can be put upon children from an early age. The rise of social media and the power of the internet mean that children can feel open and exposed to all manner of issues be that inequality, racism, discrimination or just a feeling of not fitting in with the ‘norm.’ The depth and range of themes keeps Rachel on her toes and each week new parents arrive asking for help with certain topics/challenges and she loves to help them find just the right book. Sometimes pictures alone can say so much more than words and this is why so many of her book choices are very powerful to children, especially younger readers.
The store is laid out in sections which make shopping for different ages/topics quite easy. Here is my walk round for you. I have named the areas in my words and how I best describe them and of course the layout is likely to change each time you go into the store, but hopefully you get the idea of what’s available.
The Under 5’s area
I am probably a little biased here as I have 2 children aged 2 and 5 but I though the range of titles and themes on offer was excellent. The choice however was a little overwhelming at first in this area but Rachel later pointed out to me that they were going to add headings to help out parents. Once she explained the layout it made much more sense. So sections will be labelled in areas such as ‘Fairytale,’ ‘Dinosaurs’, ‘Weird and funny’, ‘Bonkers books’, ‘Issues based (e.g. grief) Empathy, Friendship, and ‘Popular’ (e.g. Julia Donaldson, Dr Seuss)
Books for older children
For those of you old enough to remember PE class with the wooden benches you ran across then you will have fond memories (or not) of these now turned into lovely book shelves for Under Nines and Older Children.
The Under Nines section has lots of books which help ease younger readers from largely picture and text books to more text only books. An example is ‘A Faraway Tree Adventure’ adapted from the classic 75 year old novel by Enid Blyton.
The older readers section contains lots of classics like the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and a wide selection of titles by the author Neil Gaiman.
This section also includes The Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken. It’s another book you would probably have read when you were little (Rachel did and that’s why it’s in her shop now) and one which should be enjoyed by a new generation.
The Activist section
A great selection of books to help parents and children to have conversations on how we can all stand up for our rights, fight for greater equality or help others who may not have a voice. A bit heavy for some? Maybe, but I didn’t even know these books existed for children until I visited the store.
Books for all
This area covers a wide variety of topics and interest where your child can see themselves (or a family member, friend) reflected in a book. Including books on Autism, shyness in boys, deafness, different family types, etc. If it’s not there Rachel will always try to find a book that will help. There are also books on survival skills and internet safety for children.
The comfy sofa and tent
So if you are walking around the store and have been inspired by some of the titles you need a place to sit and think for a while, which book do I like the best? Well take a seat in the back room and give yourself some time. No pressure to buy just read and reflect. Kids love the tent too!
The beautiful illustrations
Very expensive but a great investment piece. Look out for some of the classic original illustrations.
This award willing illustrator is from Bedford. If you haven’t seen his work come and have a look in this section.
It’s hard to not walk out of the store without buying several books due to Rachel’s enthusiasm for all the titles she stocks. The books are beautiful to look out, touch and hold too. The centre table offers a great selection to browse though and great if you are gift buying or just looking for inspiration.
The store offers events throughout the year which are advertised on their Facebook page and even a BiblioKids subscription where your child can receive a book a month in the post. I highly recommend a visit.
For more information please see below:
26 Castle Lane,