After growing tired of selecting books out of his school’s library that featured characters and authors that didn’t look like him, 11-year-old Sidney Keys III decided it was time for a new reading curriculum. So, the St. Louis pre-teen started Books N Bros, a reading club for boys that celebrates black books and promotes literacy.
Sidney first got the idea after visiting Missouri’s University City bookstore, EyeSeeMe, according to St. Louis Public Radio. The bookstore is known for its large collection of African-American children’s books. Upon his first visit, Sidney’s mother, Winnie Caldwell recorded a video of her son reading in the store, which garnered more than 62,000 views on Facebook. Almost immediately after the impressive video reception, Sidney came up with the idea to form the book club, using EyeSeeMee as the common meeting grounds.
Since September 2016, Books N Bros has met monthly to discuss one book with a black protagonist that the group votes on for an hour. In the past, the group has read and dissected Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Ty Allan Jackson’s The Supadupa Kid, and A Song for Harlem: Scraps of Time by Patricia McKissack. After the hour-long conversation, the boys play video games for thirty minutes at the Microsoft Store nearby.
In addition to group discussions, Book N Bros also invites authors and black, male mentors to attend and speak at each meeting. Ty Allen Jackson, author of Supadupa Kid and the club’s inaugural book, Danny Dollar, joined the first meeting on Skype.
Although the main focus is on books with black characters, the club welcomes boys of all different backgrounds, ages ranging from 8-10. And for only a monthly fee of $20, the boys not only get to participate in book meetings, but they also receive worksheets that go along with the theme of the month, snacks, and a selection of more than 250 donated books to take home for their personal collection.
“My motivation is I already love to read but it would be awesome, even better, to read with other people,” he told the radio program. “I want to keep doing it because I don’t know what will make me stop reading because I love to read.”