Sidney Keys III, 15, had a hard time finding books he could relate to when he was younger, because so few of the main characters were Black. But one day he visited an African American bookstore in St. Louis, Missouri,  where he lived, and everything changed. It inspired him to launch Books N Bros, a club that brings books about Black characters directly to Black readers. Each month, members get a box with a book selected by Sidney and later meet online to discuss it.

Q: What was it like first visiting that bookstore?

A: It was like being in a completely different world, getting a book that I could relate to for the first time. I just lay down on the carpet and kept reading.

Q: What’s your favorite part of Books N Bros?

A: Sometimes boys come to a meeting and they’re like, “I don’t want to be here,” but then they start to read a book they relate to, and you see them get a smile on their face.

Q: What do you say to people who don’t like to read?

A: Reading isn’t always picking up a book. I know some people say they don’t like to read and then they go online and read a comic book. That’s reading!

Q: Why is it so important for the boys to read these books?

A: If you want to be an astronaut but you haven’t heard about any Black astronauts, it could be hard for you to believe in yourself. Books can change that.

(This interview was edited and condensed for length and clarity.)