Chudney Rossfor Books and CookiesLos Angeles, CAPhotos & Story by Lauri Levenfeld
1. Who are you and what were you like as a child?
I would like to think that I am (or at least I am constantly striving to be) a loving and attentive mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend, a confident, happy, independent and outgoing woman and hardworking business owner with heart.
However, being the youngest of a family of outspoken, strong and confident women, as a child I found myself struggling to find my own place. I was a quiet and sweet child… not shy and nerdy (though my huge glasses and buck teeth may have tried to tell you another story), but introspective and loving. I was the peacemaker in my family, a kind and loyal friend (still am) and a book lover from the start. You can be whoever you want to be in the pages of a book and testing out those personas gave me the strength to find myself and my own voice!
2. How has your love of reading transpired to your daughter Callaway?
Everyone tells you the benefits of beginning to read to your baby early on and I will admit that it felt weird at first. As an infant, my daughter obviously wasn’t comprehending the story I was sharing. She couldn’t even sit up unassisted, but these early moments with Callaway snuggled close in my arms, listening to the gentle rhythm of my voice, I believe were not only special bonding moments, but also the early stages of her love of reading.
Callaway is a beautifully independent toddler who loves imaginative play, singing and reading books. I’m so lucky that I can actually bring her to work and she will read for hours (making a huge mess of the books in the store), truly enjoying each page flipped while also inspiring the other tiny readers who visit.
3. Your vision for Books & Cookies was to create a space where moms could come together to play with their kids? Tell us about the daily life at B&C.
My vision for Books and Cookies was to bring families together around literacy and of course sweet treats. Originally, my focus was on creating a bookstore with cafe, but I soon learned that what moms with babies and toddlers were craving was a safe space to build community, a place to meet other like-minded parents and to create enriching experiences for their little ones and so my attention turned to our enrichment activities and events.
I, for sure, run my business from the heart (not always the most lucrative business practice, but it is what works for me). I have worked hard to create a positive learning environment for young minds and a safe and comfortable place for families. I want each day at Books and Cookies to be filled with smiles and laughter and I feel very fortunate to be able to enjoy this community and space that I have created with my own daughter.
4. Where did your passion for Literacy begin? Where do you dream of taking this passion?
From a very young age, I was a lover of books. In the pages of books, I could be who ever I wanted to be and do whatever seemed impossible. I also loved working with children, so I knew this would translate into some sort of educational role. I would have never guessed that my road would be so exciting however, I am very proud to have gained so much growth and experience as a preschool and elementary school teacher, to have written a middle grade chapter book (Lone Bean)
5. You were a producer in another lifetime, how did this skill set translate to what you are doing now?
There was a time that I thought I wanted to be a writer for children’s TV and film. Everyone’s advice was to work in and learn all aspects of production and so that’s what I did. I learned a strong work ethic from the teams I worked with. I learned the importance of teamwork, taking responsibility for your assigned task and finishing what you start to the best of your ability. All of those skills translate into running your own business. They translate into everything in life really.
6. What are your biggest inspirations in life?
I am inspired by my work with children. Children are so honest, positive and open and that is infectious. I truly love what I do and that joy comes from the my daughter wanting to read a book for the 500th time or the children giggling in the teepee in our Learn and Play area or the chorus of singing “Old MacDonald” coming from our activity room. I even find joy in the tantrums of our young patrons as they leave my store. That sounds terrible, I know… but I have obviously done something right if you can’t get your children to leave my establishment without a few kicks and screams.
Name your top five “Feel Good” books for kids.
1. I Like Myself By Karen Beaumont
7. How has reading inspired your travels or vice versa?
I love to travel and I love to read about far off lands! I have been fortunate to be able to see a lot of the world while traveling with my mother as a child. I look forward to exploring the world with my own daughter and sharing books about different places and cultures is a wonderful place to start. We love the “This Is” travel series by Miroslav Sasek and “Kiki and Coco in Paris”, by Nina Gruener.
|8. Who are your biggest role models?
My mother is my biggest role model. I am inspired daily by her strength, talent and beauty. She has taught me that anything is possible with hard work, determination and passion. She has encouraged me to follow my dreams and keep working them even when the journey is hard.
9. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is always so hard… In five years, I would like to still be as happy as I am today, continue enjoying the work that I do and still have the freedom to spend this much time with my daughter.
My hope is that Books and Cookies will continue to grow and thrive. I hope that in five years, the business gets to a stable place financially and that we can grow to bring our love of reading to a wider audience (whether by opening more stores, franchising, growing mobile-y through events). I would like to get back to writing and reading (so challenging with my focus on the business and baby). Speaking of that, I would also like to have more children. I love being a mother and would love a sibling for Callaway.
For more TALK on Chudney and her exciting life, visit Juliet Belkin at JOLIEGAZETTE.