Riviera Beach, Fla. – Juliet Bradford, who owns a home health care service in West Palm Beach, and Carla Felder have turned their passion for reading into an opportunity for children and families in predominantly African American Riviera Beach where Felder’s husband Ronnie L. Felder is mayor.
The ladies have opened a free outdoor library on the grounds of the Jesus and You (JAY) Outreach Ministries community facility at 2831 Avenue S in Riviera Beach, where children and families can come at will, take as many books as they like, and never have to return them.
It’s an idea that’s getting traction nationwide, said Bradford, 52, the brainchild of “Readers are Leaders,” who said she started the program to provide free access to books for the children of Riviera Beach because she wants to make a difference in the lives of families in South Florida.
“I want to Inspire in them a joy of reading,” said Bradford, who added that the purpose of the program goes beyond getting free books.
“The goal is obviously to get them to read more, but also to encourage them to start a home library. We want them to choose books that they would want to have at their homes. They are free to choose the books they want and how many they want. They have unlimited access at all times,” said Bradford. “They can stack them up at home.”
Another aspect of the program is for community leaders to volunteer once a month to select a book to read to the children and lead them in an activity. That part of the program is the brainchild of “First Lady” Felder.
“I originally wanted to offer just the free library, but she wanted to do more,” said Bradford.
The two decided to partner after Felder, 54, made an impassioned Facebook post about her love for reading to the children in the Riviera Beach public library system. It’s something Felder had done for several years until the coronavirus impacted their attendance.
“I saw her post and thought it would be perfect for us to partner,” said Bradford. Felder agreed.
“I was excited because this was a great opportunity to partner with her and bring our passion for reading to the children and this community,” said Felder. They want to boost the reading skills of those often deemed as struggling academically.”
The two reading buffs held their kickoff celebration July 9 with kids, parents, books galore, snow cones and other snacks to cap off an exciting day.
The events took place at JAY Ministries, which helps community members thrive. The community center was founded by Felder’s late father-in law, Robert Felder. Her husband, the mayor, heads the facilities.
The ladies are in need of sponsors to help with all facets of the program, such as books, activities and games, funds for operating costs and volunteer community readers.
For now expenses are coming out of their pockets. To help, contact Readers are Leaders at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are particularly asking for gifts of African-American books. Bradford said the children are inspired when they see characters and images who look like them.
Felder said it’s also important to draw parents into the program. “I want to see the parents take advantage of this too, because when the kids see their parents excited they get excited too!” Key to their drive and motivation, Bradford said, is that “Reading is the passport to the world!”