13-YEAR-OLD LITERACY ADVOCATE IS A MARVEL HERO IN DISNEY+ DOC
By Erin White
January 9, 2020
“Marvel’s Hero Project” is a short film series about the ingenious young people who are making a difference in this world. One of its latest inspirations comes from 13-year-out St. Louis boy, Sidney Keys III. An avid reader, Sidney founded and runs Books n Bros, a book club for boys ages 7 to 13 years old. In fact, you may remember Sidney from two years ago when we originally wrote about his one-of-a-kind book club.
The idea for the book club blossomed after Sidney’s mom took him to EyeSeeMe, the only African American children’s bookstore in University City. “He hadn’t seen [a bookstore] like that before and I certainly never had,” said Sidney’s mom, Winnie Caldwell. “When you get to a point when he is 11 years old and it was so shocking for him to relate to someone on the cover in a positive aspect rather than it be some negative urban story we see a lot. I would like to make sure he sees himself in being whatever he can be.”
Mom did real good! And now, Sidney is paying it forward by giving kids just like himself the opportunity to read stories that show them all the amazing things they are capable of.
“The school I was going to at the time was majority Caucasian, so I didn’t get to see a representation of myself in the school library. I didn’t even realize it,” says Sidney, who lives south of the city.
Since we last checked in back in 2017, Books n Bros has been thriving. Having quickly outgrown two host spaces, the club has settled into a larger free space provided by the Ferguson Youth Initiative. At present, membership stands at more than 150, including many boys from different states who join meetings via Skype. Sidney runs the show with the assistance of adult mentors he calls Big Bros. Monthly membership costs $25 and includes a copy of that month’s book and shipping costs. What if a child wants to join, but his family cannot afford it? Books n Bros has a nonprofit side, too. Chub Cares: Adopt a Bro lets people sponsor memberships for youngsters who can’t afford to join. The initiative is named after Sidney’s late uncle, “Chub” Caldwell, who was once a special needs student.
“It’s not really about the money. I do it to promote African American literacy. Kids, especially kids of color, like to read books that they can relate to,” Sidney says.