Los Angeles, CA — Malik’s Books in the Crenshaw Baldwin Hills Plaza (inside the African Marketplace), has the largest collection of African American children’s book titles in Los Angeles, and that did not happen by accident.

“We have more than 1,000 children’s books, although not all of them are out in the store,” said store co-owner Aprilia Morales who owns the store with husband Malik. Morales has been instrumental in building up the collection over the last three years.

“I did it because I wanted to empower kids reading,” said the 35-year-old former registered nurse, who said while she has never been a teacher, she’s always been an educator, and has always given books instead of toys to children as gifts.

But Morales does not just expose children to the books in the store. She takes her show on the road to several schools each month, and during the presentations, youngsters get the opportunity to meet authors, hear readings and participate in poetry events.

But that’s not all. Understanding the connection between reading and writing, the former pediatric nurse, has established a writing workshop that is held the last Friday of every month at the store.

“From 6 to 7 p.m. parents drop off their children (ages 7 to 14), and they will come in and read a book. Then they have to write a short story and critique it out loud so everyone can understand what was done,” explained Morales, who based the workshop on something similar she had done as a child. “It helped me a great deal.”

Many of the books the youngsters have a chance to read are written by local authors like Brenda Roberts, a professor at Cal State Northridge, who wrote the book Jazzy Mosaic.

And Morales said she is not finished.

“I want the children’s section to have its own space so we can do more writing workshops and tutoring,” said the co-owner.

While the programs Morales has introduced since she began working at the store three years ago help youth, they also add to the retail outlet’s bottom line.

“A lot more people who didn’t know about the store are calling. I have parents calling the store (and asking) can (their child) come in for about 45 minutes?”

The answer is typically yes, but when the youngster comes, they must choose and actually read a book, Morales said.

Going above the call of duty in this manner is something Malik’s Books has done for the 17 years it has been open. In fact, Morales said being kind and courteous to everyone is part of the reason they have been able to stay in business so long.

“There is no purchase necessary to receive kindness.”