Sidney Keys III loves to read, and about six months ago he concocted a plan to start a reading club for boys his age to band together and celebrate their love of literature. The reading club, which he dubbed Books N Bros, strongly emphasizes making reading fun while focusing on and celebrating African-American literature and culture.
“Books N Bros is a book club for boys and we read books and African American literature because every time I go to the library at my school, there aren’t many African American literature books there,” Sidney, 11, told St. Louis on the Air. “I already love to read, and since we don’t get that much time to read in school, we just discuss in groups. I wanted to read a book, but I also wanted to discuss it with other people.”
A light really flickered for the precocious preteen when he and his mom, Winnie Caldwell, visited EyeSeeMe, a book store in University City, Mo., focusing on African-American children’s literature. Caldwell shot a video of her son reading in the store that spread across Facebook with some 63,000 views and more than 1,000 shares.
“He hadn’t seen [a bookstore] like that before and I certainly never had, so he was making himself comfortable on the floor, reading a book,” Caldwell said. “When you get to a point when he is 11 years old and it was so shocking for him to relate to someone on the cover in a positive aspect rather than it be some negative urban story we see a lot. I would like to make sure he sees himself in being whatever he can be.”
Together, Sidney and his mom sat down after that fateful visit and a book club immediately jumped to mind.
“We specifically reach out to boys around ages 8 to 10 because that is statistically the age they stop reading—we wanted to combat that,” Caldwell told the radio station.
“My motivation is I already love to read, but it would be awesome, even better, to read with other people,” Sidney added. “I want to keep doing it because I don’t know what will make me stop reading because I love to read.”
Books N Bros currently meets once a month and discusses one book that the club has voted on. Their numbers are still small, but the club has grown. Currently, seven to 10 members join in the discussion each month. And while the group welcomes boys of all backgrounds and races, it remains focused on stories with black protagonists.
The group has even struck up a deal with the Microsoft Store at the Galleria, where the club meets. The boys chat about their books for an hour before each child gets 30 minutes to play video games on a personal console at the store. Serving With the Badge, a group dedicated to helping build police-and-community relationships, donated 200 books to the club so the boys can take books home with them for their own personal libraries.
Read more at St. Louis Public Radio.