Sharing the Power of Books

Sidney Keys III is raising awareness about the importance of diverse stories.

DIWANG VALDEZ 

Sidney loves the experience of losing himself in a book. 

THE INSPIRATION: When Sidney Keys III was younger, he didn’t love reading. Part of the problem was that he had a hard time finding books featuring main characters he could identify with. Then one day he visited a bookstore in St. Louis, Missouri, where he grew up, that specializes in children’s books about Black characters, and everything changed. “I picked up a book with a Black boy on the cover who looked like me,” he recalls. “I just lay down on the carpet and kept reading.” From that day on, Sidney, who is now 15, has been a voracious reader. “I love being able to lose myself in a book and see myself as the main character,” he says. He became determined to share the experience with other Black boys.


THE ACTION: Sidney decided to start a book club that would bring books about Black characters directly to Black readers like him. He named his club Books N Bros. Each month, members get a box with one book selected by Sidney, discussion guides, and fun extras like bookmarks, water bottles, and snacks. Members then meet either in person or online to discuss the book. A membership running Books N Bros is seeing boys connect with a book for the first time. “Sometimes they come to a meeting and they’re like, ‘I don’t want to be here,’ but then they start to read a book they relate to and you see them get a smile on their face,” he says.

THE OUTCOME: Since starting Books N Bros, Sidney has helped hundreds of readers discover a love of literature. In the future, he plans to open more chapters of his club around the country while continuing to advocate for more books that feature Black characters. “If you want to be an astronaut but you haven’t heard about any Black astronauts, it could be hard for you to believe in yourself,” he explains. “Books can change that.”

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