HARLEM — A few years ago, Joe Rogers decided to carry a book wherever he went to stress the value of reading.
"You see people carrying around iPads and iPhones but you don't see too many people carrying around literature," Rogers, an education activist, said. "I thought it was really important for black and Latino men and the community to see people carrying around literature and to know that reading literature is a normal thing."
Fast forward a few years and Rogers, founder of an education and youth advocacy group named Total Equity Now, is sharing his vision with others through "Literacy Across Harlem," a march and book donation event in conjunction with the Harlem Book Fair scheduled for Saturday.
"What if we had a critical mass of community members doing the same thing, we could have a day where everyone across Harlem would be carrying a book or reading material in their hand," Rogers said. "It would spark conversation and help to normalize this tradition."
The plan is to have hundreds of teens and adults march to the Harlem Book Fair. Each person is being asked to carry two books. One will be a favorite book or one that changed their lives and the other one will be for a donation to the Harlem YMCA's literacy zone.
"This is really trying to connect the educational and literacy dots across the community and give Harlem the opportunity to represent their identity as a community of learners and help neighbors develop reading and writing skills," Rogers said.
The marchers are set to gather at three locations at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and later converge at the book fair at West 135th Street and Lenox Avenue and stack their books on the main stage.
"There are a lot of people across our community who are authors, writers and bloggers who read a great deal," Rogers added. "But there is more we can do."