Sometimes, there can be a feeling of unease when getting ready to take the family out for a meal, especially if there are little ones in the party. Oftentimes, distractions like toys and games work best for keeping children engaged and not knocking over drinks and silverware.
Beckett’s Table and Southern Rail have come up with another solution for keeping the kids busy at the dinner table: Reading at the Rail. Instead of a coloring page or digital kiosk, these restaurants hand out books for kids to read, with the kids’ menu on the inside cover. Chef Beckett’s wife and co-owner of both Beckett’s and Southern Rail, Michelle, came up with the idea.
“The boys and I were in Oregon one summer and went to a diner that used book menus. Our boys were so excited and enjoyed reading them while they waited for their food,” Michelle said.
The menu/books have been a part of Southern Rail since it opened around five years ago. They have just recently started using them at Beckett’s Table, but Michelle says they are just as popular.
“As a past Kindergarten teacher, I’m thrilled to get kids reading at any and every opportunity,” she said.
Michelle purchases the books from a used book store or uses hand-me-downs from her boys or their friends. Each restaurant has around 10 books in rotation.
“The host will give the kids the book when the adults get their menus. We do have kids that ask to trade for another book once they are done reading it, or they swap with their siblings,” Michelle said. “Kids definitely jump right into reading the book and often want to read instead of ordering their meal.”
Michelle finds that some kids even head to Changing Hands Bookstore after dinner so the kids can get the book they read at dinner.
Once the books are too “loved” and begin falling apart, they are donated to the public library.