Atlanta teen’s Books N Bros generates national following
When Sidney Keys III was 10 years old, he wanted to join a book club for African American boys. None existed, so he and his mother, Winnie Thompson started one that has evolved into a subscription-based nonprofit with a national following for kids like Sindey who share an appreciation for reading.
Today, Sidney Keys III is a 17-year-old teenager growing up in Atlanta with a love for books that he has cultivated and shared across the country with others. This enterprising young man took his love and launched Books and Bros, with a goal to help make reading relevant for Black boys.
As a young boy, Sidney wanted to read books about boys who looked like him but could not find any in the library. His mother took him to EyeSeeMe African American Children’s Bookstore near their home in St. Louis. “It felt like a whole new world opened up to me. Being able to open a book and relate to the character was something I hadn’t had a great experience doing before,” said Sidney.
When he asked about a boys’ book club that he could join he was told they only had clubs for girls.
Sidney did not accept that rejection. Instead, he took that ‘no’ and turned it into a ‘yes’ by starting his own club for himself and his friends.
Sidney hosted his first club at the bookstore in the summer of 2016 with seven boys who showed up for the event. Sidney and his group enjoyed snacks while discussing their book, not realizing that he was creating something that would one day reach other like-minded children across the country.
Mom knew they were onto something. She took a video of Sidney announcing his new club and posted it to Facebook. It received 65,000 views and they knew then that his idea would have an even greater impact on others.
Since that rejection in the bookstore and the start of his own club, more than 750 boys from the U.S. and Canada have participated in Books N Bros, the only youth-led book club where Black boys ages 7-13 can explore African American stories and literature.
Sidney and his mom gather boxes of books representing diverse perspectives and ship them across the country.
Sidney also hosts virtual and in-person meet-ups monthly to discuss the current selection. Together, they turned the book club into a subscription-based nonprofit to keep the club sustainable. Club members, called “Cool Bros,” pay a monthly fee of $33 for a specially curated book club box with the featured book, snacks, and other book swag.
For a membership for boys ages 7-13, interested families can sign up at booksnbros.com/shop. Members receive a specially curated book club box that includes a featured African American book (to keep), snacks, book swag and access to male mentors who also join in the book discussions.
Samantha Lurie, an educator with Teach for America in Atlanta, said she loves the group’s motto, “Cool Bros Read,” and its emphasis on African American stories and literature. “I just love how (Sidney) is dedicating his young life to really making sure that there is a representation in literature as well as creating a place to show that reading is cool and we can come together,” she said.
The group is also looking for sponsors.
When Sideny was 10, he was a young kid looking for a book club. Today, he is a junior at Pace Academy where he served as president of the Black Student Alliance and played football. He hopes to attend a historically Black college or university one day, possibly Howard University. He recently released a book, “Books N Bros: 44 Inspiring Books for Black Boys” and continues with his love for reading and inspiring others to do the same.