A Book Club for Boys

Esther with Sidney Keys III and his mom, Winnie Caldwell
Esther with Sidney Keys III and his mom, Winnie Caldwell

Esther with Sidney Keys III and his mother, Winnie Caldwell

In August 2016, Sidney Keys III and his mother, Winnie Caldwell, visited EyeSeeMe, a bookstore in University City, Missouri. The store, which was founded by Pamela and Jeffrey Blair, specializes in children’s books and educational materials that spotlight African-American culture, experiences, and achievements.

Caldwell posted a Facebook Live video of Sidney, who is now 11, reading in the store. Within a day, the video had 60,000 views. She and Sidney called the Blairs and asked, “How can we keep this going?”

During a recent interview at EyeSeeMe, Sidney talked about his first visit to the store. “I liked reading so much before, but when I came here, I loved it,” he said. “I wanted everyone to be able to access that experience.”

Sidney and his mother decided to start a book club for African-American boys to help foster literacy and self-esteem. In September 2016, the duo founded “Books N Bros.”

Today, the club has more than 60 members. It is designed for boys between the ages of 7 and 13. During those years, many boys lose interest in reading, often because they don’t see reflections of themselves in literature.

At monthly meetings, members discuss a book, eat snacks, and hear guest speakers. Volunteer adult “Big Bros” act as mentors and participate in the book discussions.



The club features a program called Adopt a Bro, or Chub Cares, which is named after Sidney’s late uncle, Anthony “Chub” Caldwell. It allows donors to pay the monthly membership fee of $25 for a boy who otherwise would not have been able to afford it. 

“I think that Sidney speaks for the majority of African Americans in the country right now,” Caldwell said. “Not seeing ourselves positively in literature is something that we just silently knew, but we didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until we saw a kid recognize that need and fulfill it.”


Photo courtesy of the author