EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Brave Books opened up almost two years ago and has been working on improving El Paso’s literacy ever since.
Jud Burgess and his wife Laurie founded the bookstore in a 1915 bungalow right off Arizona Avenue.
The homey atmosphere and smell of old books that you can browse through sitting comfortably next to a fireplace is just one of the charms to bring in new and long-time bookworms.
“El Paso is always in the five least literate cities in America, every year we are the bottom five,” said Burgess, co-owner of the store.
Poor literacy in the city was just one of the reasons the Burgesses were inspired to share and expand their mighty book collection.
“My mother was always reading books, she’d read to us as we were growing up,” Jud said about his mother, who grew up in Juarez and came to El Paso as a young child.
He said she was reading many books in English, which helped her learn the language.
“We believe that books are a great equalizer,” said Jud. “It doesn’t matter if you live in a poverty-stricken area or the great rich areas in town, if you have access to books and you learn to read and you expand your mind and your mental horizon through mental activity, you have just as great of a chance to succeed in life.”
Another goal the Burgesses wanted to set is encouraging civic engagement.
“We want to let people know that it’s important to be involved in what we’re doing in the city so that we can make El Paso the city we want it to be,” explained Jud.
A valuable member of the staff is the bookstore cat Yofi.
Jud found Yofi when he was just a kitten looking for shelter in the neighborhood.
“Yofi has become the face of Brave Books,” he said, adding that Yofi also has a book giveaway program named after him, handing out 100 books for 100 children.
“He’ll sit on top of one of these shelves and as people come in he’ll say hello and meow. Like a Walmart greeter, only he is a Brave Books greeter,” Jud quipped.
Jud said that the store hasn’t been affected negatively by the pandemic as much as he had expected. He believes that more people are now rediscovering the healing power of reading.
“We want to give people that feeling like your life is being enriched when you walk in here like you’re being surrounded by culture,” said Burgess.