Children start learning to read at an early age, but not everyone maintains the habit throughout their lifetime. Sidney Keys III is a 15-year-old who is working to change that. Keys not only loves to read himself, but also wants to spark a love of reading in other kids—as he explains in Cartoon Network’s latest monthly installment of its “Drawn To” series, which features inspirational stories from real-life kids having fun and sharing common interests such as spending time with family and helping out in their communities. All “Drawn To” episodes are available on CN, the CN App, and across the network’s social platforms.
Sidney’s story, “Drawn to Making It Happen,” debuted Saturday, Feb. 6, in celebration of Black History Month. The budding entrepreneur discusses how he founded Books n Bros when he was just 10 years old.
“When my mom and I went to my first African American children’s bookstore, I picked up a book, started reading and just couldn’t put it down,” Sidney explains. Knowing that literacy among Black male youth can be disproportionately low as they get older, Sidney launched Books n Bros as a book subscription service focused on promoting literacy among all boys ages 7 to 13 (he’s since expanded the age range to 16). The books that Sidney selects each month champion Black storytelling, inclusion and relatable stories for kids. The club also hosts monthly discussion groups and even mentoring by adult “Big Bros” to inspire the youngsters to keep it going. Parents tell him their sons’ reading scores and even behavior have improved since joining Books n Bros.
“The ‘Drawn To’ series has been such an important part of what we do and it’s so critical that kids have examples of others just like them exploring and taking impactful steps toward a kinder, more inclusive world,” says Tricia Melton, chief marketing officer, global kids, young adults and classics, at Warner Bros.
“I want kids to see a representation of themselves in books, and say, ‘Hey, I want to be like that guy. He looks just like me!’” says Sidney.
In “Drawn to Making It Happen,” Sidney is joined by Craig and Jessica (voiced by Philip Solomon and Lucia Cunningham) from the Emmy-, GLAAD- and NAACP Image Award-nominated Cartoon Network series, “Craig of the Creek.” His story inspires them to get excited about reading too. “That’s so cool,” Jessica says. “Do you think we could start a book club?”
“Nothing is unachievable if you put your mind to it,” Sidney says. “You can achieve anything that you imagine in your head, as long as you have people you can turn to, and the dedication and determination to go and reach for it.” And while Black characters in books can inspire the younger generation, Sidney is doing his part personally. He wants to expand the Books n Bros program to provide mentorship at schools and write books of his own.
“Drawn to Making It Happen” was created in collaboration with the Black-owned, Chicago-based multicultural marketing agency Burrell, with opening graphics designed by St. Louis-based Black art director and illustrator, Marco Cheatham. Each “Drawn To” is produced in partnership with local artists to cultivate authentic connections with the topics being discussed.
In January, another inspiring “Drawn To” entry featured Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. Her “Drawn to Change” video premiered in honor of MLK Day. Craig from “Craig of the Creek” asks Yolanda about her grandfather’s legacy and what she does to carry it forward. Her “Drawn to Change” goal is to carry on her grandfather’s work in overcoming poverty and racism, and even helping the environment.
She suggests ways to be involved including getting together with other kids who are passionate about those same issues, volunteering at food banks, attending a rally or circulating a petition. “You have the power to be brave, so use that power for good,” Yolanda urges all Cartoon Network viewers, and Craig enthusiastically agrees.