Books upon books, upon books, this Brooklyn Navy Yard storage space is full of them, and full of volunteers helping to sort and ship them out to the community as quickly as they can.

Seema Aghera and Rebecca Cohen are the founders of the Brooklyn Book Bodega. Their mission is simple, putting books into the hands of kids. Cohen, an educator herself, knows the difference reading makes in children’s lives.

“They found freedom, and independence, and ownership in books. Everybody should have that. Book ownership and reading, there should be no barrier," said Cohen.

Partnering with Aghera, the duo has now donated more than 70,000 books to more than 16,000 children. Making not only an impact in the reader’s lives but also their families.

“Having more books at home changed their family interactions. They had more to talk about and they were less bored," said Aghera.

“Kids saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been looking for this book.’ and they find it, at one of our partner events. Just to see those visual reactions is so rewarding," Cohen added.

Books are donated by members of the community, publishing companies and local bookstores. Then they’re sorted into age and topic and handed out for free.

“We end up with a variety of used books that can easily go to a second home, third home, fourth home, right? Because unless you’re a two year old who’s reading books, you read the book once, twice, or 16 times, or whatever and then you’re ready to let it go,” said Cohen.

Each one is stamped by a volunteer, giving kids a place to write their names and claim ownership.

“You find a book that’s been stamped in our bin downstairs. So that means that it’s been somewhere and it’s come back to us to give to a new home. Like, how amazing is that?" asked Aghera.

Aghera and Cohen say diversity in the books they donate is also important, they want kids to be able to see themselves in the pages they turn.

“We want the books that we’re sending out into our community to reflect those we’re sending them to while also opening their eyes to new possibilities, new religions, new cultures, and new ideas," said Cohen.

Just as food and PPE became essential during the pandemic, the partners know the importance of having books at home. By the end of 2021 the pair hopes to put 80,000 books into the hands of excited children.

“Books are essential too. Developing your mind is essential. People were like, ‘Yes! That makes sense. Where can I get those books?’ And we had them," said Cohen.

For opening minds with the turn of a page, Seema Aghera and Rebecca Cohen are our New Yorkers of the Week.