School librarians and parents are seeking donations of books celebrating diversity to the elementary school libraries in South Kingstown and Central Falls.
The group provides links to wish lists created for each elementary school. Donors can choose to donate a book or give any amount that the librarians can then spend to add to their collections.
Numerous studies and initiatives have highlighted the benefits of representing black, brown and Indigenous people in children’s books. Books serve as windows and mirrors. Windows into the lives of others, encouraging empathy, understanding and respect. And mirrors, validating our own lives and experiences when we see people that look like ourselves in stories. Books that show people of all backgrounds and colors are healthy for children of color as well as white children.
This is certainly not a cure for racism, but the group feels it’s a start.
In early June, South Kingstown School Librarian Martha Badigian shared that she had been adding diverse books to the school library collections at Wakefield Elementary School and Peace Dale Elementary School but that she wanted to redouble her efforts. Within minutes, local parents Margaret Hayden and Alison Kates offered to help.
As plans came together, the three friends recognized that South Kingstown is well funded when compared to other RI school districts. To share the privilege experienced here in South Kingstown, the team invited elementary school librarians from Central Falls to also create wish lists for books that reflect a wide variety of faces and experiences.
Central Falls, located in northern Rhode Island, is funded by the state and the school librarians there had not had a budget to purchase new materials in over twelve years.
So the librarians in South Kingstown and Central Falls each chose books that celebrate diversity that they feel their students would benefit from and put them into a ‘wish list’.
Then Margaret and Alison reached out to our local communities (via social media, email, and connecting with local press), providing the wish list so that anyone can purchase books and/or make a donation.
The group chose to create the wish lists through a company called Bound to Stay Bound Books, which reinforces book bindings so that the books will withstand years of use by students. Donors can choose the exact book they’d like to donate or can donate money for the librarians to ‘spend’ buying books on the site.
All are welcome to join the effort by donating a book from the wishlists. Each school has a unique link with a wish list created specifically for that school by the librarians.
CENTRAL FALLS Elementary School Wish List Links:
Ella Risk: https://www.btsb.com/sosl/ellariskelementry
RAICES & Captain Hunt Early Learning: https://www.btsb.com/sosl/raicesduallanguageacademy
Veterans Memorial: https://www.btsb.com/sosl/veteransmemorial
SOUTH KINGSTOWN Elementary School Wish List Links:
West Kingston: https://www.btsb.com/sosl/westkingstonelementaryschool1
The friends are hopeful that this model will work in other communities and have created resources for other groups hoping to set up similar campaigns for middle schools, high schools, public libraries or community centers nationwide.
Updates and more information are available on the group’s Facebook page, which is accessible to the public. facebook.com/DiverseBooksSKCF/ The page contains links to the wish lists as well as many resources for books that celebrate diversity that people may want to add to their own collections.