I love books. Given the choice, I’d rather read than do pretty much anything else.

And so would my children.

We love going to bookstores and spending hours discovering new literature, especially the ones with furniture set up to encourage reading.

On our way home from haircuts one rainy afternoon, I decided to stop at a bookstore. It seemed like such a cozy thing to do on such a drizzly day.

But as soon as we walked into this particular store, the feeling was anything but cozy. I kept getting stern looks which seemed to say, “children should be seen and not heard.” I almost felt like I should be pushing a gold-trimmed sham with a beautiful doll-like baby inside — sleeping peacefully, of course — while I carefully selected literature that would expand her growing mind.

Not holding the hands of two very curious, happy boys with granola bar bits stuck to their shirts.

Immediately, I went into apologetic mode. “I’m so sorry, they just love books,” I said as they both took off in different directions. I kept trying to hold their hands and guide them to what I thought were kid-friendly toys and books.

“Are you planning on purchasing that?” one of the workers asked me, pointing to a shiny red car my 3-year-old had found.

“Um … ” I began.

“Because if you aren’t,” she interrupted, “then we need to put it back. We like to keep our toys clean for purchase.”

I can understand that. But my son was crushed as she took it away, guiding him toward some very old, dirty stuffed animals that both my son and I wrinkled our nose at.

In the end, we did end up purchasing one book and a little finger-stamp set, but I have to admit the day was a little tainted for me. I felt like the wonderful, imaginative world of reading was somehow less magical because my kids didn't feel invited.

A few weeks later, my sister invited me to a charming little Bountiful bookstore called All Tucked In. I was a little hesitant to bring my boys based on last month’s experience, but I decided to give it another try.

A little bell on the door ringed as we walked in, and I instantly thought of Meg Ryan and the bookstore of her character, Kathleen Kelly, Shop Around the Corner, in “You’ve Got Mail.”

It was charming. There was a little table and chairs with wooden trains and cars ready for play. Blocks, a kitchen set and stuffed animals were set up beside it. And right at toddler level were board books and activities.

Now, I don’t think that kids should be allowed to take down and destroy any book or toy they see. Maybe the previous store had problems with that in the past. If by chance something got ripped, scuffed, scratched or torn, we would buy it.

But that didn’t seem to be a concern for this manager, who was incredibly warm and pleasant. She kept saying she hoped customers felt like friends, and celebrated my children’s eager excitement to read.

I am grateful for bookstores that encourage a love of literature for curious minds of all ages and stages.

Here’s a little list of some of our family favorites. I could honestly write several pages worth — probably several articles worth — of books I adore, but these are our latest and greatest for small bookworms:

Animal books and series

My son loves dinosaurs, and some of his favorite books are the “How Do Dinosaurs …” series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. These are fantastic books encouraging children to share, clean their rooms and play kindly with their friends by asking how a dinosaur does it. We also love the “If You Give …” series by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond. Our favorites are “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake” and “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

We also love the new books “Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct” by Mo Willems and “When Dinosaurs Came With Everything” by Elise Broach and David Small.

Goodnight books

Our new favorites are “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site” by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld and “A Book of Sleep” by Il Sung Na. These should be on every little nightstand.

I love you books

My personal favorite is “Love You Forever” by Robert N. Munsch. But I cry every time I read it.

We also love Judy Cooley’s “Mom Says I Can,” a wonderful new classic about a mother’s encouragement and a child’s imagination.

Classics

My son’s first book that he actually asked me to read over and over was “Go, Dog. Go!” by Philip D. Eastman. He still says, “Stop, dog. Stop!” every time we come to a red light.

“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown and “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton were two of my favorites growing up and some that I couldn’t wait to read to my own kids. Their pages are filled with feelings of comfort and home. And the first book I memorized when I was 3 was “There’s Something In My Attic,” by Mercer Mayer. I was somewhat of a fearful child growing up and had an odd fascination with this book and could totally relate to the little girl in the farmhouse who’s convinced there’s a nightmare in the attic — and decides to prove it to her oblivious parents.

I hope you get the chance to discover these wonderful books and many more in your favorite bookstore.

Happy reading!

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.