A five-year-old entrepreneur from Cheverly brought happiness to children and families by allowing them to take home some books.
Tyler held a free book party on March 11 at Wellspring Therapy in Annapolis. The kindergarten student was awarded a Disney Summer of Service grant to continue his #1000 book giveaway campaign through Youth Service America (YSA). YSA’s mission is to help young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues.
Tyler is one of 340 young leaders across the country that was awarded a $500 Disney Summer of Service grant to organize projects to help make their communities healthier, greener and stronger.
“This free book event is great,” said Tameka Wright, a mother of nine children who attended the event. “Some parents can't afford to pay $15 or $20 for books. Having this type of event allows children to pick out free books they like and take home and read.”
With the help of his mother, Andrea Blackstone, Tyler started collecting and sorting books to give away last year. The published author and honorary chief executive officer of Kid Time Enterprises began hosting free book parties that included free books, story time, activities and snacks after realizing that all children could not afford interesting books to keep.
Over 1,500 books were given to kids in Maryland and the District of Columbia in 2016. Discover Books, a Baltimore-based company, initially donated 1,000 books which allowed the young boy to fulfill his dream.
On March 2, 2016, Tyler, who was four years old at the time, began his project at his Pre-K program in Prince George's County. He continued the book giveaway kickoff on Dr. Seuss' birthday at an enrichment center in Hyattsville called “Mighty Minds.” Over a period of months, he made other stops at community centers in Prince George’s County, an after school program in the District of Columbia, and in public housing communities in Annapolis.
The Disney Summer of Service grant allowed Tyler’s idea to grow. It led to him partnering with Sherry Medley, a woman who runs an Anne Arundel County-based nonprofit organization called Hands of Hope; Thembi DePass, a speech language pathologist who owns Wellspring Therapy Services; and Ericka Wilkins, the owner of Studio Styles. DePass donated space to allow Tyler to have a place for youth and families to look for books. Additionally, The Maryland Book Bank made a substantial donation to Tyler so he could offer a variety of books which could appeal to youth of all ages and create a free community bookshelf for trading and taking books. It is located at Wilkins’ hair salon, which is not far from where the event was held.
“I think what Tyler is doing is just great,” said Wilkins. “There is no library close by, so kids can just stop by and pick out books to take read and read.”
Tyler is satisfied that the 1,000 books he purchased with grant money and selected with his mother after taking trips to The Maryland Book Bank now have new homes. Over a dozen youth showed up with their parents to shop for books at Tyler’s 2017 book event. The remaining books were donated to community leaders and partners who work with children, in addition to Wilkins. Tyler has now given away approximately 2,500 books to encourage children to read more at home.