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Posts Tagged ‘diverse’

By Golly, it pays to read the alum magazine. The people I knew at grad school are no longer posting their achievements, but younger people are doing plenty of creative and interesting things! Consider a 2017 Syracuse University grad who launched a national campaign not far from where I live.

Brandon Dyer wrote about her initiative at Syracuse University Magazine. “When in-person instruction at her school was canceled for the rest of the year because of the pandemic, school guidance counselor Sarah Kamya ’17 decided to work from her hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts. Unlike her New York City apartment, her home in Arlington had enough room to accommodate a makeshift office.

“After her online workday was over, Kamya often tried to spend time outside. ‘I would go on a lot of walks every day, and I passed a few Little Libraries in my neighborhood,’ she says. The Little Free Libraries are part of a national network of outdoor, weatherproof, publicly accessible bookshelves that serve as a free book exchange in many communities. ‘I found that they were a great place to get or share books,’ Kamya says. …

“As an undergraduate majoring in child and family studies [at Syracuse’s] Falk College, Kamya had interned at a local middle school. Although she enjoyed her hands-on experience, it underscored the fact that people of color are still underrepresented in materials used to support the curriculum — an observation Kamya recalled from her own childhood as a book lover who rarely saw herself represented. …

“For the past year, Kamya has been working at Manhattan’s Public School 191, the Riverside School for Makers and Artists, where she has seen how important an inclusive curriculum is to the students, who are predominately people of color. …

“In the Little Free Libraries near her home office, Kamya saw an opportunity to enlighten her community. She began by placing books that offered full, relatable portrayals of Black characters. ‘It was a light bulb, and it just worked out with the timing of being home, the timing of the protests going on. … Why not take this opportunity to really spread awareness and open up people’s eyes to things that they hadn’t seen before?’

“Kamya says these books can potentially enhance awareness, providing access to literature that is new to many families and giving all children an opportunity to read stories that feature Black excellence. She believes books have the power to create change. ‘That change may be within ourselves or spread to others.’ She calls her project Little Free Diverse Libraries.

“To finance books, she started with a request on social media. She asked her family and friends to make a donation and promised all proceeds would be spent at Black-owned bookstores. This idea resonated with people, and she raised $10,000. Then, New York City author Eva Chen amplified Kamya’s message to her own 1.4 million followers and suggested a way to streamline the donation process. …

“ ‘People are really supportive of this project and have been helping me expand this further than I ever imagined.’

“To date, 28 different states have received or will be receiving books from Kamya’s collection. She filled 15 Little Libraries in her hometown of Arlington, and volunteers in Austin, Texas, filled five. Three Little Libraries in Los Angeles have received books like Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and Hair Love, written by Matthew Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Other examples include Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

“During her summer vacation, Kamya is spending a lot of time in her dining room processing the piles of books. She’s enlisted friends and her parents, calling the project a team effort. ‘I had to make my mom relocate her home office, but it’s okay,’ she says. When donations arrive, Kamya spends at least an hour unboxing everything. Each book is outfitted with individual stickers that say: ‘Black stories matter. This book was chosen with love by anti-racist educators. Please treat it with care and return it to the Little Free Library so that others can enjoy it.’

“Although her project is time consuming, the potential benefits for people of color inspire Kamya.

‘My hope is that these younger people and students will really feel motivated. Hopefully students of color can see themselves represented and go out there and make change.’ …

“Kamya’s goal is for these books to be accessible to all people and to inspire conversations. ‘I want the books to keep replenishing themselves. I want Black authors to keep writing books, and for characters that are minorities to be represented.’ ” More.

The original Little Free Library team also interviewed Kamya, asking, for example:

“What advice do you have for Little Free Library stewards who want to share diverse books in their libraries?
“My advice for Little Free Library stewards is to reach out to those in the community. When I started this project, I had people reach out to me saying they were a teacher or a parent, and they had some books they would like to donate, or their kid had outgrown the books and they were happy to drop off these books so the next person could have them. Sometimes people don’t even know what they have until they take a closer look at their collection!  I would also suggest thinking about your own community, who is represented, who is not represented and what books can you add to your library to welcome or educate those within the community. …

“Can Little Free Library stewards apply to receive books from you?
“I am continuing to send books, as long as I have the books and the funds. If stewards would like to receive books they can reach out to me via email, through the [Little Free Library stewards’ private] Facebook group, or on Instagram.

“What are your top 10 favorite diverse children’s books?
“1. Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli
“2. I Am Enough by Grace Beyers
“3. Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
“4. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
“5.The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
“6. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
“7. The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad
“8. The Day you Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
“9. Hair Love by Matthew Cherry
“10. Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama”

More at the Little Free Library site, here. For a podcast by Kamya, click at Syracuse University Magazine. And check out the Little Free Diverse Libraries Instagram profile.

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