NewsCoronavirusActs of Kindness


'Reading Hero' shares her love of reading through Black literature book drives

'Her excitement is contagious'
Arin Gentry surrounded by books collected during a Black literature book drive.
Posted at 6:00 AM, Dec 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-27 23:47:25-05

CINCINNATI — Arin Gentry has loved reading since she was a little kid.

But it wasn’t until she was an adult that she realized what was missing from the books she read when she was little: Positive stories about Black people written by Black authors.

“I really can’t tell you many books that I read when I was coming up that were written by Black authors,” said Gentry, 26, an academic adviser at the University of Cincinnati. “The stories that we would read would be about civil rights or slavery. And that’s important to know. But it also gets, ‘OK – I get it,’ you know?”

So in the summer of 2020, when Gentry was pregnant with her son, she started a Black literature book drive.

“The goal was to make sure that young people who look like me – but also young people who don’t look like me – are able to have access to books that represent Black people in a positive manner,” she said. “Being able to provide that for young people, it means a lot to me.”

Arin Gentry in her office at the University of Cincinnati. She has long, dark braids and is wearing a white long-sleeved top and black and white patterned jacket.
Arin Gentry in her office at UC.

Gentry put out the call on social media, asking for donations of new books or money to purchase new books. She ended up with 1,000 books to donate to kids in the community and said she knew she had to keep it going. Her second book drive early this year was twice as successful.

RELATED: Her book drive makes sure Black kids read happy stories, too

“All together, about 3,000 books I’ve donated,” she said. “And again, all of these books are brand new books written by Black authors that share Black stories in a positive manner.”

Because of that work, the Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati this month named Gentry a “Reading Hero.”

“We think it’s so important to have those cheerleaders in our own lives that help us become strong readers,” said Michelle Otten Guenther, the Literacy Network’s president. “When children struggle with reading early on, they kind of get stuck and they tell themselves, oh, I’m not a good reader. And then that spills over to other areas or other subjects.”

‘Her excitement is contagious’

Gentry has gone “above and beyond,” Guenther said, to encourage young people to read by making sure they have books that inspire them and relate to their lives.

“I really do believe that what Arin is doing is an act of compassion and kindness for our community,” she said. “That’s something that we always talk about – how books can teach us empathy because they teach us about people who are different from us. They teach us about people with different experiences.”

But Gentry, she said, is taking that a step further.

From left, Michelle Otten Guenther, Arin Gentry and Yasmin Chilton, who nominated Gentry for the "Reading Hero" award.
From left, Michelle Otten Guenther, Arin Gentry and Yasmin Chilton, who nominated Gentry for the "Reading Hero" award.

“She’s actually making sure that those books are getting out there,” Guenther said. “Her excitement is contagious.”

To expand on her work, Gentry started the As Told By Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to close the literacy gap by providing youth with books that feature positive Black characters and stories.

“I read to my son every day, so I know how important it is,” she said. “But I also realize that everyone does not have the same type of access and privilege as I may have or as my son may have.”

Her goal, she said, is not simply to encourage kids to read but also to give them the books that will empower them.

“I love being able to do work in my community for those who may have had similar experiences as me growing up,” she said. “I want to do my part to make the world a better place.”

Not only for her son, she said, but for every young person in the community.

Arin Gentry's son, Kyrin, surrounded by books.
Arin Gentry's son, Kyrin, surrounded by books.

Arin Gentry plans to launch another Black literature book drive in early 2022. For information about how you can contribute books or donate money, go to her As Told By Foundation website.

Acts of Kindness stories appear weekly on WCPO 9 News and If you know about an act of kindness that you think should be highlighted, email