Pranati Kumar brings first-of-its-kind children’s bookstore Rohi’s Readery to West Palm Beach, putting a megaphone to underrepresented voices and empowering marginalized communities.
The Readery gets its name from Kumar’s daughter, Rohini Ray Skomra, and her annama (grandmother in Hindi), also named Rohini. Kumar is seen here with her daughter, husband Paul and dog Pumpernickel.
Pranati Kumar is a force of nature—her passion for her craft infectious, her knowledge of education’s inner workings bewildering. “Native American author and activist Vine Deloria Jr. once stated, ‘Every society needs sacred places. A society that cannot remember its past and honor it is in peril of losing its soul.’ I think of this quote often when thinking about the idea of the Readery,” Kumar says. Recently opened at Rosemary Square, Rohi’s Readery is a children’s bookstore dedicated to social justice and promoting inclusivity and diversity.
But for the young, Kumar questions, “What does a sacred space do? What power does it have for a child to feel seen in their full identity and being? … We’ve been talking about many of the issues coming to light recently in the past year for a long time in education,” she says, “a long time. But no one heard our voices. We’re talking about dismantling the practices that contribute to oppression in the classroom and changing the library and curriculum to honor all communities.” Rohi’s Readery is Kumar’s answer—her hope to make a positive, lasting impact on the school system and literacy in America. “The Readery came to fruition right after my daughter was born eight months ago while thinking about how to make change around the system when the system won’t let me,” she says. “How to share the breadth of beautiful books and learning and, when challenges arise, having a space to care for one another in the community. It’s advocacy and learning together and co-constructing knowledge.”
My Family, Your Family! by Kathryn Cole with illustrations by Cornelia Li showcases blended families, diverse characters, gay and single parents, and more.
“If we want to cultivate citizens passionate about social justice and self, we have to start at the roots with our youngest ones," Kumar says.
The shelves of the Readery are filled with books honoring diverse heritages, characters, voices and authors—all selected, of course, by Kumar herself. While many of the titles come from her time teaching in schools in the South Bronx, Harlem and Seattle, others are newer discoveries. “I take time to read the books, research the authors and illustrators, and think about how the main idea can create opportunities for child-led discussion and engagement—what about the book sparks curiosity and opportunity for activism,” she explains. “The beautiful thing about activism is that it can take shape in many different forms.”
Rohi’s Readery founder Pranati Kumar
Through read-alouds, special events, Revolutionary Storytime and partnerships with organizations like the Achievement Centers for Children & Families, the Miami Marlins Foundation, the Norton Museum of Art and Dreyfoos, Kumar advances her mission one book at a time. “Rohi’s Readery is a space where we honor and share everyday experiences through the pages of a book and educational programming,” she says. “Whether they are books that are showing characters in beautiful shades of Black and brown, those who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community, characters with disabilities and neurodiversities, or information that has historically been presented inaccurately, the goal of the Readery is for you to see yourself in the pages of a book or learn about the stories of those you don’t know.”
The Readery encourages dialogue
This fall, the Readery will host a series of events, including local author guest readers, Revolutionary Storytime with an activist activity, Eclectic Conversations and more. 600 S. Rosemary Ave., Ste. 162, West Palm Beach
Photography by: Van Richardson