November 30, 2022

This New Jersey family plans to tour the East Coast and give out free books to promote childhood literacy

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A New Jersey family plans to distribute free books from customized “book mobiles” this summer in an effort to promote childhood literacy along the East Coast.

Kayla Boulevard Sykes and her husband Raymond met when they were students at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. New Jersey. “Throughout our relationship, we’ve always done community service,” Sykes told CNN.

When her family faced discrimination at a local bookstore, she knew it was another opportunity to expand their bookstore. Community service work.

In 2021, The couple, who are black, visited a bookstore in Ocean County, New Jersey, with their son, Sach, who is now 2 years old. “We took him there because he had millions of books,” Sykes said. “We wanted to give our son the experience of being on the literary playground.”

But at the bookstore, Sykes said, “We weren’t welcomed, people were staring at us, whispering,” he said. “We were disappointed, we were a little upset.”

The experience prompted Sykes and her husband to find their own bookstore, “where everyone feels welcome.” Four weeks later, in June 2021, Hidden Jewelry Literary Emporium, A non-profit donation bookstore opens. More than 500 people attended, Sykes said.

It was “our first sign that we are doing something important that the community needs.”

Since then, they have distributed more than 15,000 free books through their events. And now, Sykes is raising funds. GoFundMe To purchase RVs and upgrade to their custom mobile bookstore. The family plans to travel from New Jersey to Florida, giving away 1,000 free books along the way. This is the second repetition of his free book tour, when he made a similar trip in his Chevy minivan last year.

“It’s a great way to spread love, spread smiles, spread joy, spread your theme of making reading interesting for people of all ages,” he said.

Sykes said the book tour fits into the larger purpose of promoting childhood literacy of hidden gems. Reading scores dropped. According to the analysis from, during the epidemic Northwest Assessment Association

So far, Hidden Gems has received a total of 40,000 books as donations, Sykes said. They receive donations from organizations and individuals, as well as from some authors who donate their books. In addition to giving away free books at community events, they also sell light used books from their storefront in New Brunswick.

“The amount of community support we’ve received from this has been literally huge,” Sykes said. “People around the world, as far as Australia, the Netherlands, Ghana, have supported our efforts by donating books or sending financial donations.”

“It’s really amazing, if we all come together and get involved, it could literally have an impact on the whole generation,” he said.

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