Latanya DeVaughn is on a mission to bring books back to the Bronx.
After the borough’s last major bookstore closed in 2016, DeVaughn sparked an idea to create her own bookstore on wheels – Bronx Bound Books – to make reading accessible throughout the borough.
On Oct. 1, DeVaughn unveiled her newest endeavor – a physical Bronx Bound Books location in The Mall at Bay Plaza.
Located right by the third floor food court, DeVaughn’s cozy kiosk is packed with drawing kits, canvas bags and colorful books for both kids and adults. It’s also the first step toward DeVaughn’s goal of opening a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the mall.
“It’s like a full circle moment, because starting Bronx Bound Books was pretty much initiated by Bay Plaza’s Barnes & Noble closing,” the South Bronx-raised DeVaughn said. “Supporting the kiosk is the first step to getting another book store back here.”
Bronx Bound Books’ bus launched in May 2019, only a month after Lit Bar brought a much-welcomed bookstore to Mott Haven. The bus has since served the community wherever rubber can meet pavement.
Along with selling books at farmer’s markets and the Bronx Zoo, DeVaughn has developed programs with many South Bronx schools – including PS 5, where DeVaughn attended while growing up. Instead of students having to buy books with their own money, Bronx schools will rent out the bus for a day, allowing each student to take up to three books home for free.
She also sells books through the Bronx Bound Books website and gives frequent recommendations on great books for Bronx kids on her social media accounts.
DeVaughn’s good deeds have led to articles in TimeOut and Curbed, and even an appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show. She’s also earned the admiration of community members, many of whom came to celebrate the Bronx Bound Books kiosk’s grand opening.
Cedric Fergus, a Bronx resident and 63-year-old retired gym teacher, was thrilled to see a bookshop return to The Mall at Bay Plaza.
“I was a big, big Barnes & Noble person, that was my favorite store here,” Fergus said. “I was outraged when it closed, it was very upsetting. There’s no reason they shouldn’t have a book store here. It’s outrageous.”
“Latanya is a go-getter,” Fergus added. “Nice person, hard worker, great visionary, great entrepreneur. I’m very, very proud of her.”
As of 2021, nearly half of children in Bronx Community Districts 1 and 2 (Hunt’s Point, Longwood and Melrose) live below the poverty line, and economic inequality remains one of the most significant predictors of a student’s educational success. When students fall behind at a young age, they are rarely able to make up the lost ground.
Making books more accessible to South Bronx students is essential for their academic development, but getting them inspired to dive into a new book can be a challenge.
“They need books that have characters that look like them,” DeVaughn said. “Representation matters in books and hopefully that’ll be the gateway for them to love reading and increase reading scores.”
“This is my favorite book right now,” DeVaughn said as she pulled out a copy of C.G. Esperanza’s Kicks to the Sky – a vibrant children’s tale inspired by colorful shoes hanging from telephone lines across the city. The book sits proudly amongst dozens of other inclusive tales at Bronx Bound Books.
The Bronx Bound Books kiosk is open every Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.