We are privileged and thankful to the owner of the beloved Reading Bug of San Carlos, Lauren Savage, for sharing her heart and life with us in this interview. Many of us know the magic of The Reading Bug to the kids and families of San Carlos, but few know of the challenges and victories it took to last this long. If fact, The Reading Bug will be celebrating their 20th year in business in 2028.

The Story of The Reading Bug

Did you know? Families from all over the US and the world would visit San Carlos just the meet Lauren at the Reading Bug, and that Reading Bug Adventure Podcast has over 5 million downloads worldwide! On the other hand, when COVID hit, Lauren had to lay off all the staff and sat alone inside the store for the first 3 months handing books out the door, shipping boxes and hand delivering to keep the store alive.

Sadly, the Reading Bug is just one of many stores struggling to survive and being pushed out by rising rents on Laurel Street.

It will be a shame to see the Reading Bug go and become just another one of the empty storefronts on Laurel Street. This will be a closing that may mark the downfall of the downtown of San Carlos as we know it.We want to thank Lauren for trusting us with this interview, and we encourage others to share and continue their support for The Reading Bug (and other local businesses in San Carlos we all care about):

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Kazu Kibuishi presenting Amulet #9 at The Reading Bug

Interview with Owner Lauren Savage of The Reading Bug

Can you tell us about the story of the Savage Family? What made you want to start a bookstore back in 2008? Any interesting stories / challenges you’d like to share, back when you were starting The Reading Bug? Anything special behind the name “The Reading Bug?”

My first daughter was born in 2008 and I wanted a place like The Reading Bug for her to grow up. My mother-in-law had always wanted a children’s bookstore and invested in the idea. Our whole family has worked in the store over the years and some support from afar. I still run everything day to day and now all 3 of my kids work on occasion. The challenges of owning a small business with 3 young children are too numerous to count but rewarding all the same.


In 2011, you expanded your store to double its size – it must have been very exciting times! Can you tell us more about it? The most memorable things during the early years? What events did you have back then?

We’ve had so many fun events over the years. We expanded when we saw the opportunity to have a full event space and allow bigger named authors and performers as well as our own popular story times. Hundreds of customers can join us at a time now and that has been made even more exciting with outdoor space we have now since COVID hit.

At one point, our event space changed over to a shipping warehouse from 2020-2022 since we had to pivot to this during the shutdown. We now ship thousands of Reading Bug Boxes a month all over the USA and have since reopened our event space. We have had famous singers and actors such as Peter Yarrow and Lisa Loeb visit as well as Henry Winkler (the Fonz!) who has visited twice! His grandchildren actually get Reading Bug Boxes in the mail every month from us.

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If its ok to share, can you tell us some of the most memorable encounters you’ve had with customers at The Reading Bug? 

Our most memorable encounters are the kids and families who come from all over the USA (this past summer from Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Arizona and more) and world (kids from Australia and even Turkey this year!) just to meet Lauren and The Reading Bug.

Our podcast, Reading Bug Adventures talks right to the Reader through music and stories and kids have made The Reading Bug bookstore a true destination because of this. Our podcast has over 5 million downloads worldwide! We have a full wall of fan mail and art from our podcast fans.

The Reading Bug Cupig Event 1

What are your most fondest memories inside The Reading Bug when it comes to guest authors, singers, and others?

Singing Puff the Magic Dragon with Peter Yarrow was my top memory but my favorite of our own events was when we did a live version of one of our podcast episodes and tons of kids came to participate in the interactive story.

Can you tell us more about The Reading Bug Box? What’s the farthest place you’ve delivered a Reading Bug Box to, and what do the customers usually say about it?

We would love to be able to ship all over the world but shipping costs just won’t allow for it. We do ship all over the USA including some customers in Alaska and Hawaii as well as military/APO addresses with customers stationed all over the world. But customers love Reading Bug Boxes- especially those who are not close to an independent bookstore.

Independent bookstores are special because we are experts in children’s literature and we work with kids one on one every day to pick the best books for each individual child. Reading Bug Boxes do that same thing- bringing that personal touch right to their doorstep based on the age and interests they give us. We open up new worlds for many of these kids and surprise them with books they may not have ever picked up or knew existed and turned them into life long readers!

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The Reading Bug Podcast is amazing! Do you see yourself doing a full video production based on a storybook someday?

Oh we would really love to. We were very close (in the final stages of a contract) to getting the podcast developed into a full tv series but when the writer’s strike hit, the deal fell through. We would love for someone else to pick us up someday!

During the pandemic, what were the most challenging things you had to deal with?

We had to lay off all of our staff and I sat inside that store for the first 3 months handing books out the door, shipping boxes and hand delivering to keep the store alive. It was the most exhausting of our entire 15 years in business. We were so lucky to be able to bring everybody back but even now we are still dealing with the aftermath. Sales and shopping have not come back so we are struggling to make rent as that rises and sales fall.


Now that the pandemic is over, what are your plans for the next three years? Anything extra special you have in mind?

We’re moving back into events full-force and we are really hoping to bring our community downtown again. I wouldn’t say we have anything extra-special because I just think we ARE extra-special. There are very few towns with a community gathering space like The Reading Bug and I hope people will start to remember that again.


Most of us who grew up with no internet or smartphones, we remember the magic of play and imagination. Do you feel that the children today who grew up with smartphones and Youtube are missing out on so much? In your experience, how do books and stories help with the growth and development of children at a young age?

Honestly, I think there is a healthy mix to be had. I hope that we can all find more balance in media. Books and stories definitely increase vocabulary and communication and even something as simple as coming into the bookstore instead of ordering books online is SO important for kids. My kids totally watch TV and play video games. But they also read a ton and work in the bookstore to work on their communication skills just speaking with other kids and grown-ups.

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We understand the leasing terms of The Reading Bug were going to expire in Summer of 2024? If its ok to share, what made the contractor change their minds?

Oh they have not changed their minds. They have raised our rent and will continue to do so. They could not afford to knock the building down yet but I assure you they will either knock it down in 2027 when the lease is up or they will raise the rent so high that we won’t be able to pay it. I would really love to say that they did this out of the goodness of their hearts and for the good of the community but the reality is that they are in this for the money.

If we have to leave in 2027, I do believe that will be part of the downfall of downtown San Carlos. We were one of the first to breathe life into this downtown and I’m so proud of what we and my fellow retailers have built. I do fear for the future of downtown as rents rise and we see more empty storefronts.


From you personally, why do you love The Reading Bug? What’s the best thing about it?

I love what we have done to create community in our downtown. From classes to events and free storytimes, I have made some of the best friends over the years in the customers who have been coming since we opened back in 2008 and I think other families have also made lifelong friends (and readers!).


A message for our readers:

Come see us! Support us so we can keep supporting San Carlos and beyond. Thank you!

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For the latest news in San Carlos, please visit San Carlos Life Blog

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