Many people would call Emma Rodgers a living legend in and around the Dallas community.
She was the co-owner of Dallas’ Black Images Book Bazaar for 29 years. It was a place where the community could go to learn about Black literature and hear authors speak. The store opened in 1977 and closed in 2007, but Rodgers’ love of books and childhood literacy has not stopped.
“Let me tell you how I got into books,” Rodgers said. “I had an aunt who would buy me books for Christmas every year, and it was a sniff and lift the page activities. It was just so cool. I have just always loved books.”
Her love of books carried into the rest of her life. She estimates she has about 10,000 books in her Dallas home right now.
“Ask me if I have read all of them, I will tell you I have read all of them twice,” she laughed.
It’s also about showing kids diversity in books.
“I grew up at a time when there weren’t many books depicting African American and Black life. We decided that’s what we needed was positive images and that’s why we opened the store. That is important now, too. Kids need to see diversity in the books they read,” Rodgers said.
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Rodgers understands every child hasn’t had the same background when it comes to reading as she did. That is why she continues to explain to parents and guardians the importance of helping kids along with their reading skills.
“I ask parents, do they read? Do your kids see you reading? Children model parents’ behavior. You should always read to your child,” Rodgers said.
During the height of the pandemic, she volunteered with the Bishop Arts Theater Center and continuing to do so this summer with her virtual reading series: Story Time at Bedtime.
Rodgers said it's all about sharing stories, as many as you can, so that the next generation can have some good ones of their own.
“It opens up their horizons. They can travel the world without leaving their room. They can see other people doing things and they can be inspired,” Rodgers said.