Jeremee DeMoir owner of DeMoir Books & Things is the ultimate book-lover—he loves them so much, he made them his livelihood. Learn more about his story (and store!) here—but in this conversation, he and Kristen Davis, Strategic Partnerships Director at Give901 trade tips on how to support students by building their love for reading.
Kristen: As we sit here in your store, DeMoir Books & Things, it is obvious that you love reading. Why do you think it is so important to encourage children to develop a love of books?
Jeremee: There is so much power in books. They can be a way to escape or a way to connect. Kids struggle when they feel isolated whether they are physically alone or are feeling a lack of connection because of what they perceive to be differences from those around them. Books can give people a feeling of belonging by creating a sense of solidarity.
Books also have the ability to broaden perspectives. Reading about someone with different beliefs or culture doesn’t mean you have to change the way you believe but it will give you a different way to think about things.
Kristen: Prior to opening the bookstore, you were an English teacher. Which lessons seemed to really drive kids to read?
Jeremee: Creative writing. Teaching the foundation without explicitly telling them what it should look like.
The ability to write what they choose in response to a prompt helps them begin to love language. Creative writing gives students autonomy over their learning and can lead them to a connection with books. —JEREMEE DEMOIR
Also, offering opportunities to read books with stories they can relate to. A recent resurgence in young adult fiction is drawing kids into reading. There is so much more diversity and representation among the authors getting published and the stories being written. You have Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, which takes place within the power system of a fictional portion of Africa. And Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, which takes a person home to Mexico to find their lost cousin. As a teacher, I allotted time for my students to read whatever book they wanted each day.
Kristen: Access to a wide variety of books and allowing space to read whatever you want are critical to develop a love of literature. Recently, Memphians really stepped up to the plate to support the Give901 Project Grizz Prep Reads. People all over the city donated to provide a book to every student at Grizzlies Prep Charter School. Students got to pick any book they wanted which led to more reading over the holiday break than ever before.
Jeremee: Here at DeMoir Books & Things, every child gets to pick out a book even if their parents don’t buy anything. That’s part of our mission. It helps them realize, “I matter. I’m a little person trying to figure out who I am, and that’s part of being a kid.” My job is just to give them a piece of something that may help them find a passion. Maybe they feel encouraged, maybe they become more curious.
Kristen: Give901 is all about supporting teachers, schools and mentors in Memphis. Sometimes new mentors are anxious about what to do with the young people they are paired with. I think reading is a great option. By building a 2-person book club, mentors and kids can learn so much about each other and it can build a love of reading for everyone involved. Sometimes for kids it’s as much about the person they are reading with as it is about the story.
Jeremee: Absolutely, any way you can connect with kids through books will help them become invested. And, investing time and love into reading leads to so much more. That’s part of what makes the Bookmark901 collaboration so important.
Find out which books Jeremee suggests we invest our time in during Black History Month through our social media: DeMoir Books & Things Facebook or Instagram and Give901Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.