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Books & Books to 'lift up literacy' in South Florida with new nonprofit

Mitchell Kaplan, founder of Books & Books
Susie J. Horgan
Mitchell Kaplan, founder of Books & Books

Books & Books opened in Coral Gables in 1982, establishing itself as a gathering place for readers.

Four decades later, the independent book store has expanded to five locations in Miami-Dade and one in Key West. It has hosted events featuring big names like former U.S. president Bill Clinton for his book tour and Grammy Award winning bassist Esperanza Spalding and violinist Federico Britos who performed for their 25th anniversary.

From gallery nights to evenings with authors, the book store has become a community stomping ground for readers and non-readers alike.

READ MORE: Live at the Miami Book Fair with the most Florida man: Carl Hiaasen

Now, in age of online retailers and services, the neighborhood bookstore is launching a new endeavor: the Books & Books Literary Foundation.

It's a new nonprofit that aims to expand the bookstore's community impact and secure its long-term growth.

Mitchell Kaplan, owner and founder of Books & Books, said over the years they’ve presented at least 10,000 authors and held between 300 to 400 events a year, including bringing authors into schools and donating books.

He said this foundation will allow him to continue this work but in a broader and more enhanced way.

“It's also to help to ensure that the legacy of what we do could live on way into the future because none of us know what's going to happen with retail,” he said.

An author event at Books & Books in Coral Gables
Carlos Rodriguez
Books & Books
An author event at Books & Books in Coral Gables

Kaplan has many plans in mind. He said they will start working alongside Exchange for Change to start prison libraries in South Florida. He also wants to bring writers and authors to schools in areas that don’t necessarily have a lot of those events, like Homestead. As a basketball fan, he’s even thinking of creating reading groups out of youth teams or after-school basketball programs.

With the donations the foundation receives, Kaplan wants to spread the love of reading as much as possible.

“Whatever we can to lift up literacy programs, work with other organizations that are doing great work with young people and with older people as well in the community, and how we can layer books into some of those programs,” he said.

For those who feel that bookstores aren’t needed in the age of Amazon and other online retailers, Kaplan said you have to look at bookstores as more than just a place to purchase books.

READ MORE: Judy Blume, on top of the world (and her Key West bookstore)

He said bookshops serve the community as a place to go after home and work, a place to engage in community. A big change he noticed is that after the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve had business like never before.

Kaplan chalks this up to people realizing the value of community.

“During the pandemic, particularly, young people realized how isolating it is to just be on a computer and just stay at home and not connect with others,” he said. “And so right after the pandemic as things open more, we have never been busier … The store is filled with young people all the time, and that is, to me, one of the greatest things."

You can donate to the Books & Books Literary Foundation here

The foundation launches tomorrow, Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. with a free event at the Coral Gables store for Small Business Saturday.

Natu Tweh is WLRN's Morning Edition Producer. He also reports on general news out of South Florida.
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