DALLAS — Allen’s Grocery Store in South Dallas is a one-stop shop for many, housing produce, a kitchen, a donation closet and now a growing library.
Nelly Cuenca, co-founder of MaaPaa, began gathering books just before the pandemic and formed Bean’s Library.
Roman Childress, an avid reader himself and big proponent of literacy, began reading when he was a child. One day while reading the Dallas Morning News, he came across a story about the nonprofit MaaPaa, which focuses on supporting single mothers raising sons.
“It [the article] was related to literacy rates as well, and it was talking [about] how literacy rates are low,” said Childress.
According to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, 28.2% of adults in Texas have a low literacy rate. Texas ranks 48 out of 50.
The foundation found that counties where a quarter of the population have a below basic literacy rate affect the outcome of those individuals’ health, finances and education.
Childress did his own research and found many studies connecting literacy to success. The teenager decided he wanted to help build out the library, so he reached out to Cuenca.
“We talked about the project, and they told me, ‘This [is] what we have now.’ Back then it was just a freezer case full of books,” Childress said.
After a year of planning, drawing potential layouts and purchasing shelves, the Eagle Scout is taking the next steps toward completing the library.
During his winter break, Childress took the time to build out the shelves and desk that will be installed in the next few months.
“We’re going to have six bookshelves that are going to be all along this wall here, going all around like an L shape,” Childress explained.
In March, he plans to get some of his fellow Boy Scouts to help finish the project. Childress and Cuenca are asking for any type of books to be donated to fill the library.
The plan is for Allen’s Grocery store to be the flagship library within a convenience store. They plan to expand to other grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores where customers may have a low literacy rate and limited access to books.
MaaPaa has already collected some books and will continue to take donations to fill the library shelves in the coming months.