NEW JERSEY (PIX11)– In an effort to promote childhood literacy, a New Jersey family plans to distribute free books along the East Coast this summer from a custom-renovated “bookmobile.”

Kaila and Raymond Sykes always did community service throughout their relationship. 

The family’s mission follows their own encounters with discrimination. When they encountered discrimination at a local book store in Ocean County in 2021, Kaila knew it was another opportunity to expand their community service work. 

They were inspired to start up their own book store, where everyone feels welcome. Four weeks later, in June 2021, the Hidden Gems Literary Emporium had its grand opening. 

The non-profit donation-based store has distributed over 15,000 free books through its events. 

The family is also fundraising on GoFundMe to purchase and renovate an RV into their own custom mobile bookstore.  The family plans to travel from New Jersey to Florida, handing out 1,000 free books along the way. 

They also sell lightly used books from their storefront in New Brunswick in addition to handing out free books at community events. 

All of it fits into Hidden Gems’ larger goal of promoting childhood literacy – a project which has become even more crucial as reading scores dropped during the pandemic. 

For more information and to help: