Kaila Boulware Sykes and her husband, Raymond, met while they were students at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “Throughout our entire relationship we always did community service work,” Sykes told CNN.
When her family encountered discrimination at a local book store, she knew it was another opportunity to expand their community service work.
In 2021, die paartjie, wat swart is, visited a book store in Ocean County, New Jersey, with their son, Waarheid, nou 2 jaar oud. “We took him there because they had hundreds of thousands of books,” said Sykes. “We wanted to give our son the experience of being in a literary playground.”
But in the bookstore, Sykes said, “We weren’t welcome, people were staring, whispering at us,” sy het gese. “We were frustrated, we were a little upset.”
The experience inspired Sykes and her husband to found their own book store
, “where everyone feels welcome.
” Four weeks later
, in Junie 2021, die Hidden Gems Literary Emporium
, a nonprofit donation-based book store
, had its grand opening
. Oor 500 people attended
, Sykes said
This was “our first sign that we were doing something important that the community needed.”
Sedertdien, they’ve distributed over
15,000 free books through their events
. En nou, Sykes is fund raising on GoFundMe to purchase and renovate an RV into their own custom mobile bookstore
. The family plans to travel from New Jersey to Florida
, handing out
1,000 free books along the way
. It’s the second iteration of their free book tour
, after they made a similar trip last year in their Chevy minivan
“It’s a cool way to spread love, spread smiles, spread joy, spread our theme of making reading exciting for people of all ages,” sy het gese.
The book tour fits into Hidden Gems
’ larger goal of promoting childhood literacy
, said Sykes
— a project which has become even more crucial as reading scores dropped
tydens die pandemie, according to analysis from the Northwest Evaluation Association.
Sover, Hidden Gems has received a total of 40,000 books as donations, Sykes said. They receive donations from organizations and individuals, as well as some authors who donate their books. They sell lightly used books from their storefront in New Brunswick in addition to handing out free books at community events.
“The amount of community support that we have received from this has literally been overwhelming, in a great way,” Sykes said. “People from all over the world, as far as Australia, Nederland, Ghana, have supported our effort by donating books or sending monetary donations.”
“It really is quite amazing, the impact that can be made on literally an entire generation if we all come together and pitch in,” sy het gese.