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Rohi's Readery: On Raising Revolutionary Readers


By Zoe Perzo

Pranati "Pranoo" Kumar (she/they/we) is the owner and founder of Rohi’s Readery, a social justice driven children’s bookstore (and learning center) in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since opening in 2021, Rohi’s Readery has since built a strong community presence with a collection designed to center historically marginalized communities and an event schedule packed with educational programming for all ages. And in the last six months, the Readery has added a nonprofit arm and won a bid to purchase a property in a historic Black community. Kumar sat down with me to tell me more about the origin, operation, and recent growth of Rohi’s Readery.

Kumar had never planned on opening a bookstore, rather, it was where she landed. 

Pranati Kumar leads an outdoor storytime
Photo credits: Pranati Kumar, Rohi's Readery

“If you had asked me 5 to 10 years ago if I would own a bookstore,” Kumar said, “I would have been like 'what?’ ” 

As a child, Kumar moved from India to Texas with their parents, and the racism she experienced as a child in Texas had a lasting impact on her mental health. 

“My family and I were just experiencing a tremendous amount of racism. For my parents, it was in the professional space. For me, it was in the educational space. And you don’t even realize it until you get older…it’s sort of weathering, like it’s eroding your soul.”

Kumar would eventually use their struggle to feel secure and empowered in their identity in their work to make Rohi’s Readery a safe and empowering place for young people. But first, they went to college. They tried med school. They left and moved to New York, following a dream to work with children.

“In New York, they had a fellowship for people who are career-changers trying to navigate working in the world of youth empowerment. And I got into a fellowship teaching in the South Bronx, then I taught in Harlem,” Kumar recalled.

“I always say those babies saved me,” she said, “because there was such empowerment in their identity and their culture and their neighborhoods. And it really made me zoom in and focus on what identity-driven learning looks like.”

After working in New York, Kumar moved to Seattle to help open a school.

“It was the first elementary charter school in Washington focused on decolonizing curriculum, identity-driven learning, and social emotional learning. And it was in a primarily refugee community.”

But Kumar’s next move — to Florida — signaled a bigger career change on the horizon.

“When I moved to Florida, I started doing education consulting,” Kumar told me, “because I was tired of people of color not moving up in leadership in education, the burnout, everything. So I was doing a lot of DEI work, a lot of curriculum curation from beautiful, inclusive books, and it was getting picked and pulled at. ‘Oh, you can’t say these words. You can’t do this.’ ”

“It got to the point where I was just so frustrated. And I thought, ‘I’m done abiding by other people’s rules and feeling pressured because they’re paying me. How do I cultivate a space where I can teach what I want, curate what I want, and put out the books that I want?’ ”

Rohi’s Readery was the answer to that question. The entrace of Rohi's Readery. The door is propped open. A bench and giant connect four game sit outside.

The name comes from Kumar’s grandmother, Rohini, an education activist.

“She fought for children’s rights and women's rights during colonial rule in India, and she really believed that every human, every child, should feel seen, valued, and loved. The heart of Rohi’s Readery is based around that premise,” Kumar explained. 

At the Readery, Kumar carries mostly children’s books, and encourages kids to be Revolutionary Readers.

“Revolutionary Readers is this idea that when you read, there’s always something beautiful to learn. Then, how do you take what you’ve learned and make an impact in the world?” Kumar said. “Any type of act can be revolutionary.”

Though children are the focus of the store, Kumar says they started incorporating adult books and programming when they noticed the store was also resonating with childless adults.

“What we found was that a lot of adults who didn’t have children were coming in, and were either connecting with their inner child, healing their inner child, or just wanting to find a space of safety.”

So Kumar made sure they had a space in the store. 

“We just listen to what the community wants,” they explained, “ and we try to support those needs.”

For Rohi’s Readery that means curating a collection that honors historically marginalized communities, having small young adult and adult collections in addition to the primary children’s collection, and hosting 15–20 free educational events a month for kids and adults.

If you’re looking for a kids’ event at the Readery, you might find cooking or gardening classes as well as children’s storytime. For adults, you might find creative events like writing, or events focused on mental health and healing, or even maternal health. 

And now that June is here, Kumar told me about their Pride Month plans. A wall of books with a neon sign that says "Rohi's Readery."

“Every year we have done Pride Family Fest,” Kumar said. “But this year, we are doing Pride Family Fest in October for LGBTQ+ History Month. It’s just really hot here [in June] and it rains almost every year…

“But I have some incredible high school volunteers, and I asked them, “In the absence of Pride Family Fest, is there something you’re interested in doing?’ So we’re going to do a Pride teen night.”

With minimal guidance from Kumar, the Readery’s teens have planned an entire Pride night entitled FAME: (Fashion Art and Music for Everyone) Experience! The event includes an art exhibition, musical performances, a vendor market, and a fashion show. 

As Kumar described the volunteers and their event, it was clear that Kumar is incredibly proud of these kids. And looking at the event page and promos, the volunteer’s passion for their art and the Readery is palpable! If you’re in the Palm Beach area on June 28, consider stopping by Rohi’s Readery for the free FAME: Experience!

Aside from large scale events like FAME, Kumar has been working on several large projects lately, and that work is starting to pay off. 

In December of 2023, Rohi’s Readery officially launched its nonprofit arm, Rohi’s Liberation Station. 

At first, Kumar was nervous about creating a nonprofit organization. A nonprofit would be subject to some of the legislation and board oversight that originally drove her to open Rohi’s Readery. 

At the same time, it would open up new partnership and funding opportunities that would help Kumar keep providing free programming for everyone. 

Ultimately, she decided to do it. And to trust the community to take care of the space. 

Now, Rohi’s Readery is the bookshop side, and Rohi’s Liberation Station handles all the free programming, the book donations, and the new bookmobile. 

Many organizations are only able to donate to nonprofits, like Palm Tran, the public transportation in Palm Beach County. With Rohi’s Liberation Station, Kumar was able to put in a proposal for, and ultimately receive, one of Palm Tran’s retired small buses. 

With a little refitting, Kumar will soon have a functional bookmobile.

And that’s not the only expansion on the horizon. 

After several rounds of review and a live presentation to the Community Redevelopment Agency, Rohi’s Readery won a bid to purchase a property in the Northwest District, a historic Black community. 

Kumar already has in-depth plans for the new space, and is eager to bring Rohi’s support to this community. 

“We have everything set up,” Kumar said, updating me on their efforts since the bid was awarded in February, “It’s just a matter of closing by August, and hopefully moving in for the beginning of the school year.”

Right now, Kumar is fundraising for the purchase in-store and online. If you’d like to learn more and donate to the purchase, you can find photos and renderings of the space on the Rohi’s Liberation Station page.

Kumar has single-handedly pushed Rohi’s Readery so far in just a handful years of operation, that we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next. If you’d like to learn more about the shop, you can visit the Rohi’s Readery website or Instagram. And if you’re in the Palm Beach area, stop by the store in person!