To celebrate Black History during February, CNBC + Acorns Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow. is spotlighting everyday Americans who are investing in neighborhoods, schools and small businesses to create brighter financial futures.
During January, CNBC asked readers to nominate individuals in their communities making groundbreaking changes.
Four-year-old Khloe Joiner feared the motorcycle-riding police officer she saw in her hometown of Missouri City, Texas, while riding in a car with her grandmother, Billye Moutra. But Moutra did not want her granddaughter to live in fear of cops, despite the history of police violence against African-Americans. So she set up a meeting between Joiner and Officer Jessica Berry, who had the nice braids that caught Joiner's eye that day in 2016.
From that meeting, A Book and A Smile was born with a mission to help strengthen ties between the community and law enforcement, with books as the currency to help uneasy children during police encounters. Joiner took the $141 in change that she had been saving for a trip to Disneyland to buy more than a hundred books that were then donated to the police department to pass along to children.
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Now nine-years-old, Joiner has given away 15,000 books, expanding her reach beyond police departments. To get books directly into the hands of children, she donates to hospitals, adoption agencies and many other organizations, including ones where age restrictions prohibit her direct participation, such as shelters for those experiencing housing insecurity.
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She still hasn't made it to Disneyland yet continues to give by forgoing birthday parties to host book drives, and buying books with the $100 gift card she received as a 2022 finalist for Time magazine's Kid of the Year. When asked why she does so much community work, Joiner responds, "Volunteering makes my heart smile."
Joiner's goal is to give away a million books because she believes books provide education, a valuable gift that can open doors for other opportunities. To help reach the million-book mark, A Book and A Smile has smaller book drives, such as this month's goal to collect and give away 1,000 books on cultural diversity.
Already close to achieving that milestone just a few days into the month, Joiner has her eye on the next goal of 1,000 children's books to teach kids how to save and invest money.
"That's one thing that there are not a whole lot of in the library at schools or that children are exposed to," says Moutra, who is excited to find books that teach children not only short-term savings basics, but also explain long-term savings, compound interest and stock buying.
Teaching personal finance to kids can help students avoid payday loans, limit student loan and credit card debt, and lead to higher credit scores. Experts say increasing financial literacy can also help close the racial wealth gap, where the average white family has eight times the wealth of the average Black family, according to data gathered by the Federal Reserve.
CNBC recognizes Khloe Joiner as a Face of Change for her work to improve the world one book at a time.
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