Bookworm Rylei was tired of not seeing Black characters who looked like her in the books she read. She didn't want other kids to feel the same, so The Brown Bookcase was born.
Growing up as anything other than White can be nothing short of traumatizing. Everywhere you look, you only see Whiteness—in cartoons, movies, books, everywhere! Sadly, not much has changed even for today's children. Though representation is a little better, nine-year-old Rylei still didn't see herself represented in any of the books she read. As someone who loved to read, this was immensely disappointing for her. Instead of simply letting it go, she was determined to find books with characters that looked more like her. Therefore, she established The Brown Bookcase, a bookstore for diverse stories.
Rylei's mom Brea shared in an interview, "Rylei started her business in October 2019 after realizing she was having a hard time finding books she could identify with. She loves to read, but she was becoming uninterested. She researched books that featured characters she could relate to, whether it was their skin tone, their curly hair, the way they interacted with their family and friends, or where they were from." At the end of all her research, The Brown Bookcase was born. The proud mother affirmed, "Our goal is to provide diverse books for children of all races so that they are aware that the world is full of so many people who may not always look like us, but should be treated no differently."
The entrepreneurial nine-year-old has since been featured on the Gee Thanks Just Bought It podcast with Caroline Moss, BuzzFeed, and ABC News. In an interview with the latter news channel, she explained, "When I started reading books, I couldn't find books that I could really relate to. So I wanted other children to find books that they were able to identify with. It's important for kids to have books [with characters] that look like them and that they can relate to." The Brown Bookcase currently sells books online for children and teens of all races. There are books for both English readers as well as Spanish readers.
Rylei's business is a great resource for parents who are trying to get their children more stimuli that are more like them. While dolls, for instance, have come a long way to become more representative, the same is not true for children's books. Therefore, The Brown Bookcase is a great place to start. Rylei even has her own list of recommendations so parents can pick and choose from her favorites, which include Queer Heroes: Meet 53 LGBTQ Heroes From Past and Present (written by Arabelle Sicardi and illustrated by Sarah Tanat-Jones), A Good Kind of Trouble (written by Lisa Moore Ramée), and A Black Woman Did That (written by Malaika Adero and illustrated by Chanté Timothy). With children stuck inside during the pandemic, this is a great way to encourage them to learn more. The Brown Bookcase is still shipping across the country. Furthermore, if you're a published children's author with books representing children of color, you can get in touch with them to sell your book on their virtual platform. Yay for Black-owned business!