Early exposure to language and reading is a formative experience that can help a child develop in significant ways. But what do you do, as a child or caregiver, when you struggle to connect with the images or illustrations in literature? It’s a common enough experience, and one that can become a significant roadblock. Which is why one African-American-owned business in St. Louis is making a major impact on early readers in its community and nationwide.
While raising their four kids, Pamela and Jeffrey Blair noticed how rarely African American history or heroes were part of the curriculum. Their vision was to seek out literature to share with their kids, but to also share their findings with their community . . . their entire community. In 2015, a true vision was born when they opened up a bookstore called Eye-see-me, so kids could have an opportunity to explore books while simultaneously identifying with illustrations, storylines, and larger historical moments.
“When children see themselves in books, they become more interested.”
Not only is this husband-and-wife team incredibly mission-driven – their love for books and education is palpable within the first few moments of meeting them – but they’re community-focused as well. Pamela and Jeffrey make sure that when people come into their store – which they’re currently in the process of moving because of community demand for more space – they truly can see themselves in the bookshelves. Changing the conversation around African American storytelling and history is at the root of the store.
“When children see themselves in books, they become more interested,” Jeffrey shares with POPSUGAR. Kids of all races are getting exposed to all sorts of characters. “We hear countless stories from parents about our offerings.” And they do much more than just sell books, too. They have a significant online presence, travel to discuss their store, and are committed to providing families with a holistic educational experience. “We’re moving into a larger location and will soon have dedicated classroom space for literacy programs. We also do teacher professional development with curriculum and book recommendation and book fairs,” Jeffrey says. “We have parenting classes monthly.” “We educate [parents on] why reading is important to children,” Pamela emphasizes.
POPSUGAR asked Pamela and Jeffrey, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and bookworms themselves, for a list of their favorite kids’ books. Here they are.