October 14, 2021

Mobile bookstore brings Black history books to local neighborhoods

Mobile bookstore brings Black history books to local neighborhoods

A local business created to make reading more enjoyable and accessible for children of color has received positive feedback from the community. Black Worldschoolers Mobile Bookstore offers materials about Black history to neighborhoods and churches in Indianapolis.

WFYI’s Terri Dee speaks with owner and book curator Natalie Pipkin about her idea to start a mobile book business and the necessity for young readers to see their culture represented in books.

WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: You have identified a particular market for your service, and it is a service and a product. So, tell me about that, please.

Natalie Pipkin, Owner/Book Curator, Black Worldschoolers Mobile Bookstore: Three years ago, we started our homeschooling journey and one of the big reasons why we decided to homeschool was the information received through the school books and through the actions of teachers and faculty about what Black people are and what we're not were missing from textbooks. Books are missing from shelves.

Through that homeschooling journey, we saw how important it was and also how enjoyable and easy it was to begin growing our own home library, our own collection of books that we needed to see and wanted to see. As we were doing that, our knowledge grew, and the love for learning our history grew in our reading group.

But my children at the time, they were five and eight, but now they are nine and 12, are reading. The enjoyment just skyrocketed; book after book, and they are devouring them just because there are books that reflect them and books that they can relate to, and books they had never seen before.

If children have access to these books that they've never seen and have that awareness that they didn't have before these stories, what could that do for their love for reading? What could they do for their self-esteem? What could that do for their knowledge? What happened that changed their thinking? How could that change so many things? What type of books are featured?

Dee: Are there books from well-known authors, up and coming authors or a mix?

Pipkin:  It's definitely a mix of a lot of independent authors, a lot of nationally known authors. The books are all centered on celebrating and uplifting Black life, Black Heritage, and Black joy. Maybe 98% of the books are all Black authors.

We have a variety from books for babies, like board books, all the way up to books from adult, independent international authors. We do pop-up shops; we have our online store; we actually did purchase the bus. So now the big, huge project is now actually converting this bookstore into a true bookstore on wheels like hardwood floors and seating and shelf space for people to be wowed and to enjoy and to feel safe and to feel like they can explore and devour the story as often and as long as they please.

Dee: What has the community response been?

Pipkin: As we've been developing the mobile bookstore, we've been doing a lot of pop-up shops and local community events. We helped launch a lending library at a local church. We have been featured in a few articles.

When we saw the responses, we realized, like OK, they are craving this; they like this. We still do plenty of events every weekend. The response has been overwhelming. It's been wonderful. Just from all people from all walks of life, just like we knew we needed it when we were in school. Parents, educators, and the children are just as amazed.

So, we're bringing, again, access and awareness to our stories and excitement and engagement around reading. It's been a wonderful journey. We're really just getting started.

Dee: Well, it sounds like the bookstore has been well received and the community wants it to grow. So, I wish you much success for your future and thank you for your time today Natalie and sharing this information with me.

Pipkin: Thank you.

Contact WFYI All Things Considered newscaster and reporter Terri Dee at tdee@wfyi.org.

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