CAMDEN, NJ — Danielle Jackson’s setup is modest but really, when you come to think of it, not much is needed to enter a new literary world.
Her mother typing at a desktop in the adjacent room, Jackson gets settled near the sofa. Beside her: a laptop, a bulky Book Club planner and copies of both “The King’s Chessboard” and “A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms.”
It’s Wednesday and Jackson, a Camden mother, will begin her weekly virtual story time as part of "The Hoodbrarian."
“The city used to have as many as 10 libraries, now we have maybe 2 and people don’t really know about them… And a little while back librarians were cut by the district,” Jackson told TAPinto Camden.
“I just wanted to provide a resource,” she continued. “Doing this I’ve seen people’s imaginations grow. I see more people are willing to read. There’s hunger and thirst for knowledge, as readers begin to enlighten themselves. Kids get excited about books, they learn about entrepreneurship. My goal is to provide them what I needed growing up. No lid. The sky's the limit."
Jackson, who works in food service administration for the Camden school district, says The Hoodbrarian officially began in May 2019 - slowly but surely gaining an audience locally. Any given session can be between 5 and 20 participants.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced her program, which includes story times, arts/ crafts for children, as well as book clubs for adults, to shift to a virtual format.
“It wasn’t that hard,” Jackson remarked on the transition, “it’s been pretty smooth and I find it’s good for the little ones to take a break from the screen and read on their off time.”
Since her launch, Jackson has partnered with local authors, entrepreneurs and fellow bookworms. These have included Dr. Liz Holder, CEO and founder of DrLizSpeaks, Chante Douglas, who made her son the basis for a super hero, Ameera Bullock, Mighty Writers program manager and Tamisha Moore, Dare 2 Dance artistic director and instructor.
While Jackson says she has been open as far as booking guests, she prefers to give Camden artists, teachers, mentors and other professionals a platform.
She has also included yoga instruction and opportunities for entrepreneurs in different fields to come on and discuss their experience.
Heading into 2021, Jackson plans to add "positive affirmation" exercises and “brain breaks” - opportunities during gatherings to take a mental respite from the busy day. She says the overall program will remain the same (for 3-13 and adults) since Mighty Writers continues to provide its own programs for teens.
Her passion, she shared, comes from her love of teaching and honest affinity for literature. She’s particularly fond of J. California Cooper, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Keisha Ervin, J.K. Rowling and Brenda Jackson. She’s currently binge-reading the Bridgerton Family series by Julia Quinn, she said laughing.
What has been her favorite part of The Hoodbrarian?
“Interacting with little people. I absolutely love children and call them little people because that’s what they are, they’re brilliant and insightful and funny,” she said. “It’s nice to help nurture them when they’re smaller and you can see the wonder still in their ways.”
Jackson said she wouldn't be surprised if some of her young readers become authors of their own.
A story time via Zoom is scheduled for Wednesday with guest readers Ms. Jennah and Trayvion Johnson at 4:30 p.m. Another at the same time is set for next week, Jan. 27.
If you would like to contact Jackson about being a guest reader email firstname.lastname@example.org.