During the height of the pandemic Cynthia Turnquest-Jones, founder of Tha Brown Urban Mother Partners, Inc. started meeting with students of Mount Vernon at the Boys and Girls Club of America. Detective David Clarke was asked to be a guest reader to discuss the book “We Still Here by Marc Lamont Hill. #MountVernonReads goal is to distribute free books to the community. The desire is for reading to become a part of the reading culture. We had over 4,500 viewers for the book discussion. With a distribution of more than two hundred books. Detective Montika Jones who is also the owner of Cupcake Cutie Boutique normally host an event for the children to decorate ginger bread homes. But, because of Covid we knew we needed to do something.
Libraries were closed. Schools were closed. Barnes and Nobles were closed.
Disney Publishing contacted Cynthia and offered her over $35,000 worth of children’s books. Pallets of books were housed at Mount Vernon Public Library. Timur Davis, Director and Community Liaison Cathy Webb assisted with counting and organizing the books based on age.
We know that interrupting oppression begins with the understanding that reading is a weapon. Books and Badges believe in equipping our vulnerable young readers with the weapon of reading. We realized that just telling our young readers that it is important to read is not good enough. We came up with “Books, Badges, and Beverages.” Community children were invited to the Cupcake Cutie Boutique. They would receive a book, a delicious hot cocoa beverage, meet the author Annie Turnquest plus interact detectives from the Mount Vernon Police Department. Meeting a detective other than in a traumatic experience was another part of the vision. George Floyd was murdered seven months prior to Books, Badges and Beverages. We knew the communities of our Black and Latino were traumatized. We also understand that other races were beyond disenchanted with the system. We also know that the average child does not own a bible or a dictionary in their home
Books, Badges, and Beverages intentionally created conversations with children about reading. A needed one. Children have much to gain from having lots and lots of books at home. It is important for us to encourage our children to read. The combination of the author and detectives was a hit. Other municipalities then joined the idea of One Book created several goals.
Our outcome: A racially equitable collection in homes across Westchester County took place. Filling the Academic Gap which widen during Covid19 began. Building a reading culture still continues.
We are now pushing to erect Free Little Libraries. The Little Free Library book-sharing box will be opened seven days a week, 24 hours a day and are freely accessible to all, removing barriers to book access.
Please note the following events that took place:
#MountVernonReads Boys & Girls Club October 9, 2020
Friendship PreKindergarten October 31, 2020
MVPL Garden Club November 21, 2020
Disney Donation December 2020
#MountVernonReads Boys & Girls Club December 4, 2020
Cupcake Cutie Boutique December 19, 2020
Spring Valley Police December 30, 2020
Grab & Go January 22, 2021
Greenburgh Police February 12, 2021
Nuthin’ But Love Friendship PreK February 12, 2021
Nuthin’ But Love Day Cupcake Cutie Boutique February 14, 2021
#MountVernonReads Boys & Girls Club February 19, 2021
Tarrytown Police March 6, 2021
End Hair Discrimination March 31, 2021
New Rochelle Police May 22, 2021
The Dole Center Reading on the Lawn June 25, 2021
South Nyack July 5, 2021
Let Girls Learn in Belize August 10th, 11th, 12th, 2021
Free Little Library September 25, 2021