Using custom-made mobile carts, the Uni Project creates pop up reading rooms to read, draw and explore.

Leslie Davol, co-founder of the Uni Project, explores with kids at the Pitkin Avenue Summer Plaza/

Schools are about to close for the summer, but with the Uni Project around, the learning doesn’t have to stop. In Brownsville, kids of all ages had a chance to experience this firsthand when the Uni Project set up one of their portable reading rooms at the Pitkin Avenue Summer Plaza on Friday, June 23.

Using custom-made mobile carts, the project creates pop up reading rooms where passersby are welcome to read, draw and explore, depending on the materials the cart brings on-site. Uni Project-founder Leslie Davol created the project to bring the act of learning to public spaces.

“Even in a city like New York with so many resources, a lot of kids don’t leave their neighborhoods and they don’t go to museums or museums are expensive, ” she said. “So [the Uni Project] is bringing resources to the kids, to let them freeform explore.”

Egypt Calier, who has worked for the Uni Project for two years, says that the Uni Project is “a breathe of fresh air.”

Having six mobile carts means that the Uni Project can share the joy of learning with multiple neighborhoods around the city. However, for neighborhoods with a scarcity of public spaces that encourage learning and exploring, pop up reading rooms seem to be more of a treat than a permanent solution. Davol said that the project tries to visit those neighborhoods as much as possible.

Permanent or not, the time the Uni Project does spend in neighborhoods like Brownsville is impactful. Egypt Calier, who is in her second year of working with the organization, said, “Kids live here in Brownsville and have never been to the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty or don’t even know what Central Park looks like. So for me to give them a book and to tell them about Central Park, it leaves them to use their imagination. And maybe one day they will get on the train and go to Central Park.”

Valencia Shelby, who happened to see the project’s cart while walking down Pitkin Avenue with her granddaughter, was certainly grateful.

“It’s a different atmosphere for a lot of people who don’t have this in this neighborhood,” Shelby said.

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Shiloh Frederick

Shiloh Frederick reports for BK Reader. She is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where she earned an undergraduate degree in history, with a minor in journalism. Shiloh is now dedicating her...

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