Books

17-year-old founder of a reading club for Black boys becomes an author

Sidney Keys III started Books N Bros, a monthly book box subscription with online and in-person meetups, when he was just 10.

Sidney Keys III with his mother.
Teen author Sidney Keys III is embraced by his mother.
Books N Bros via Facebok
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Seventeen-year-old Sidney Keys III started Books N Bros, a monthly book box subscription with online and in-person meetups, when he was just 10.

Now, inspired by his group, he’s published a book full of reading recommendations called “Books N Bros: 44 Inspiring Books for Black Boys.” In it, he also talks about becoming a young entrepreneur through Books N Bros.

A trip to a Black-owned bookstore, Eye See Me, in his hometown of St. Louis when he was in elementary school inspired Keys to start the business. He picked up the book “Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire: The Lemonade Escapade” by Ty Allan Jackson.

It was one of the first times he saw himself in the main character of a book.

“When I first started Books N Bros, it was because I didn’t see myself in books,” Keys told Forbes. “Now I can say I’m helping other boys who look like me see themselves represented in stories they can escape in, and I wrote a book that can be used as a literary resource from a Black male’s perspective.”

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According to Books N Bros’ Facebook page, the publication quickly became a No. 1 New Release in the category Children’s Books on Boys’ & Men’s issues after its release on Jan. 3. At the moment, “Books N Bros” stands at No. 415.

Books N Bros has in-person meetups in Atlanta and St. Louis plus virtual meetups. Boys from the U.S., Canada and Europe are members and receive monthly books that highlight BIPOC stories. As of 2020, it had about 250 members.

Keys picks out the books for the monthly subscription box, which includes discussion questions and book-related swag. There are two age groups for the boxes, one for Lil’ Bros ages 7-12 and one for Bros ages 13-17. Books N Bros also looks for Big Bros, mentors for the meetup groups.

Books N Bros recently posted to Facebook an image of Keys and his mother, who took him to that Black bookstore and helped him launch the book club. The post said the book has sold at least 3,000 copies.

The company’s theme is “Cool Bros Read.” It has also donated 1,000 books to youth organizations.

Keys has also been featured in the “Marvel’s Hero Project” Disney+ series about inspiring kids. In the episode, Keys talks about how he had a stutter when he was small, but reading was a way for him to escape from that. As part of the project, his story was made into a Marvel comic called “Marvel’s Hero Project Season 1: Spectacular Sidney (2019) #1.”

He also recounted this story in a first-person Huffington Post article, writing, “I was able to read clearly in my head without stuttering, and that was something that brought me peace of mind. I was able to immerse myself in literacy and see myself as a character in a story.”

Keys and his family moved to Atlanta a few years ago, and he told HuffPo he hopes to be a good role model for his four younger sisters.

What a cool kid! He’s got a bright future ahead of him!

This story was originally published by Anna Weaver on Simplemost.com.

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