Brain food is on the menu as Salt Lake City’s The King’s English Bookshop partners with a local pediatrician to provide books for children in underrepresented communities. For years before she retired in 2019, Dr. Barbara Bean ran Brain Food Books, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that she launched to give books to her patients during their wellness appointments. The King’s English Bookshop now is reviving and expanding the program to provide books for children in both Utah and Arizona.

According to Calvin Crosby, the store’s co-owner, The King’s English had worked with Brain Food Books for more than a decade, as Bean had wanted to support a local bookstore by purchasing books from it for her endeavor. During a recent conversation between Crosby and Bean, the two discussed their common goal of making books accessible to children throughout Utah. “Barbara offered to restart BFB and turn it over to TKE to continue the great work of getting books into kids’ hands,” Crosby reported, noting that the primary difference distinguishing the newly revived BFB from the original is “one of scale.” While Bean gave out books to her patients “one at a time,” under TKE’s direction, BFB will donate books to “entire classrooms, schools, pediatric clinics, and daycare centers based on their needs, in addition to letting individual children choose a book.” Crosby said that BFB also “hopes to be able to fund author appearances at schools in areas of economic hardship and give each child a copy of the author’s featured book.” The King’s English co-owner Anne Holman will oversee the acquisition and curation of the books. Bean remains affiliated with BFB in an advisory capacity; she is also serving as chair of TKE’s BFB advisory committee.

Crosby noted that both he and Bean are adamant that books “offer a broader perspective, hope, and a safe place for children everywhere. Access to books has changed our worlds, so we want to offer that same experience to kids. Representation in literature is a fundamental part of our mission.”

To date this year, due to soft fundraising as well as donations from TKE customers, the store has been able to donate 169 books to students at Eisenhower Middle School in Taylorsville, Utah, and 167 picture books to children in the lower grades at four Salt Lake City Title 1 elementary schools. In addition, “a considerable number of books,” Crosby said, were given to students at Horizonte High School in Salt Lake City as well as to Horizonte’s Adult Education Program Library.

“We are excited to continue our relationship with Eisenhower and Horizonte,” Crosby said, “And we have recently added Hawthorne and Rose Park Elementary Schools to our list of partners. We also look forward to working with the Indigenous populations here in Utah and in Tuba City, Ariz.” After all, he noted, “This bookstore shares the land that was once provided for the Ute, Paiute, and Navajo. BFB can be of service to the largest of these tribes by getting books into the hands of children there; this transcends state lines.”