Sidney Keys III, A High School Sophomore In Atlanta, Is Making A Difference With A Book Club For Black Children
It was a struggle for Sidney to find books which represent children like himself.
February 26, 2022 at 2:40 pm
Sidney Keys III, a sophomore at Pace Academy in Atlanta, is finding success in a book club he created for Black boys. The teen's club, Books N Bros, allows Black children to come together and read stories which represent their own reality.
Sidney started his club when he was 11 years old in St. Louis, according to CNN. The high school sophomore has continued to lead the group after moving to Atlanta. Although making the transition to a new city has been difficult, coupled with the stress of living in an era of a pandemic, the avid reader refused to give up his club.
"I didn’t really get a graduation ceremony from eighth grade because of COVID, and I ended up moving a year ago," Sidney told the Huffpost. "With all of that plus me missing my entire freshman year, it was a hard time for me. I didn’t know anyone, and I was stuck in the house every day. So I felt like I was in a repeated cycle every day."
The scholar student also had to overcome a speech impediment when he was younger.
"I ended up having to go to speech therapy. I overcame it eventually, but my way of escaping that stutter was through reading," he said. "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."
But it was a struggle for Sidney to find books about Black children.
"I got tired of seeing no representation in the books that I was reading," the teen said. "I was just trying to picture myself as a white boy — and my mom saw that and she took advantage of the issue. She took me to the only African American children’s bookstore in St. Louis, Eye See Me Bookstore. That was the first time I’d been exposed to African American literacy in that way."
Sidney was especially thrilled to find a book titled Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire: The Lemonade Escapade, the story of a Black boy who became a millionaire through saving and investing his money.
"It secretly taught me about financial literacy in a book that I found interesting," the Books N Bros founder said.
The St. Louis native, who grew up in a suburban area, said he was terrified when he heard about the killing of Mike Brown near his hometown. As he looks back at the case of Brown, the 18-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, Sidney says "it reinforces the importance of good local leaders."
"When leaders that don’t look like me make calls that affect me and my community — and they’ve never had to experience what me and my community have experienced — that’s what worries me," the teen said. "They begin to try to put themselves in the situation and they misperceive it or they can’t interpret it correctly."
Sidney plans to attend an HBCU, aiming to surround himself with "like-minded Black individuals who want to change the world."
"And you can do that in so many different ways," he said. "You can take the influencer route and influence those around you. You can start small with your community by picking up trash, helping the homeless or even speaking at your school or church. You don’t need to go to college for that."
The young man is aiming to become an entrepreneur, speaker and writer of African American literature. He also wants to expand Books N Bros to a full-time business. As long as he sticks to his values, Sidney believes that he can achieve all his goals.
"The most important thing to me right now is my Christian faith and family, both of which have grounded me through the pandemic," the teen said. "They’ve been there for me since day one. So if I stick with them, I know that we can get through anything."