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11-Year-Old Turns His Love of Reading Into a Book Club to Inspire Other Black Boys to Love It, Too

Sidney Keys III’s Books N Bros book club regularly hosts 7-10 boys each month. (Books N Bros LLC Facebook)

Avid reader Sidney Keys III was excited to find a St. Louis bookstore filled with positive stories about Black youths, but he didn’t have anyone his age to discuss them with, so he decided to create Books N Bros book club.

“It feels really good,” Sidney said of launching the club. “I’d rather talk to boys my age that I can relate to, instead of adults, about a story they didn’t even read or may not even understand like me.”

The all-boys group that holds monthly meetings discussing Black children’s literature was founded in September after Sidney’s mother, Winnie Caldwell, captured him reading on the floor of EyeSeeMe bookstore. It promotes positive images of the Black community and Caldwell’s August video documenting their visit went viral, racking up more than 64,000 views to date.

“Boys ages 8 and 10 years old stop reading and literacy ties into the whole school-to-prison pipeline,” co-founder Caldwell said, citing a Ty Allan Jackson’s 2015 “Coloring Books” TED Talk. “There are plenty of people in prison who are illiterate. We wanted to combat that.”

Books N Bros aims to “combat that stereotype and encourage literacy within the young African-American community,” according to the website.

“As his mom, it’s an amazing feeling,” Caldwell said of seeing her son create Books N Bros. “I’ve been speechless. I don’t look at him anymore as him just being my baby, I’m looking at him as a young man and as the entrepreneur he’s growing into. He’s an inspiration to me.”

A $20 monthly membership fee is required for Books N Bros participants and boys at the 4th-to-6th-grade reading level also are welcome to join the 8- to 12-year-olds. Members will receive a free book each month along with access to print or online worksheets that accompany the chosen book of the month. A snack bag also is provided at the meet-up, which is held at the Microsoft Store at the St. Louis Galleria. The next gathering is Sunday, April 2, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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