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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Brilliant Brown Boys Book Club Goes Online During Coronavirus. Here’s How Your Child Can Join Them

The club can no longer meet at the Bessie Coleman Library in Woodlawn, so members are bringing their virtual book reviews to Zoom.

The Feb. 29 Brilliant Brown Boys book club meeting, featuring guest storyteller Don Brumfield (center, gray shirt) from Black Ink Crew: Chicago.
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WOODLAWN — The Brilliant Brown Boys book club can’t meet up at the Bessie Coleman Library in Woodlawn like it had since its founding earlier this year, so organizers are taking programming online in the form of virtual book reviews on Zoom.

The monthly review program, which will start the first weekend in May, is intended to boost the boys’ confidence in reading through access to “culturally relevant books with positive black characters.” Organizers will assign books by local authors.

Not Fat Because I Wanna Be,” written by Chicagoan Laniyah Bailey when she was six years old, will likely be the first book, according to book club founder Chez Smith.

Six to eight boys will be selected to participate in the first month, and new participants will be chosen for every month. The program is open for boys ages seven through 10.

You can apply for your child to be a reviewer here.

At each monthly review, facilitators Donald Bailey and Andre Russell will set the boys up with basic questions about the book’s plot, characters and setting.

But from there, Smith said she wants to see “raw literary commentary,” with kids debating and giving their opinions on what they read.

“I want that raw feedback, with [the kids] just expressing themselves,”
Smith said. “The goal is for them to know their voice matters and their opinions matter, especially for products tailored toward them.”

If parents don’t have internet access, the Zoom platform allows users to call in to the conversations.

The review program replaces the book club’s guest storyteller series, which was held at the Bessie Coleman Library, 731 E. 63rd St. It featured guests like Donald Brumfield of the TV show “Black Ink Crew: Chicago” and SocialWorks co-founder Justin Cunningham.

“Representation matters, so I wanted them to see brilliant brown men from different industries and motivate them in a different way,” Smith said.

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