You might notice the sticker recently adhered to the glass door of our Little Free Library. It came with the books and materials for the READ IN COLOR program sponsored by the Little Free Library Foundation, with books provided through Southwest Human Development. Their mission statement says: “READ IN COLOR aims to promote the distribution of books that provide a window into different perspectives on race and social justice, as well as literature by BIPOC and LGBTQ authors. By reading diverse books, we believe a more inclusive future can grow.” Their goal is to provide “a robust selection of diverse books to every steward who wishes to participate. Together we will work toward a more unified, empathetic, and understanding community.”
When we first heard about the program for free books promoting diversity and social justice, we signed up immediately. We were delighted when the large bag of books arrived. Many of them were for older readers, and some were stunningly beautiful picture books, including Hair Story by NoNieqa Ramos, and Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell. We placed many of the books in our Little Free Library right away, and decided to keep the rest in the school for awhile so the teachers could read them to their classes first or use them for their own professional development.
At Monday’s staff meeting there was quite a bit of interest in the books, so we talked about ways to share them. We decided to set up our own small READ IN COLOR library for staff to use. In addition to some of the books that were gifted to us, teachers are also adding their own books to the collection for others to read. We have a sign-out sheet so we can track where books are. Although we’re just getting started, our staff collection includes picture books, poetry, novels, and non-fiction titles, all within the READ IN COLOR theme.
As we build our collection of titles to promote deeper awareness of social justice issues for our staff, we’re also committed to adding more titles to our Little Free Library. If you have books you think might be appropriate for this project, please feel free to add them to the library. If you borrow these books, please be sure to bring them back when you’re finished so others can read them, too. If you have titles you recommend, please pass that information along as well.
Immersing ourselves and our students in books that raise awareness of human diversity is one way we can bring about positive change. By leaning into topics that are uncomfortable, we can begin to shift our thoughts and actions. In the past year and a half, I’ve made this “leaning in” a personal practice. I have the privilege of choosing whether or not I want to read or listen to conversations that make me uncomfortable. Books like Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of our Discontents and Andrea Elliott’s Invisible Child raise responses of shame, sadness, and disbelief in the level of cruelty and subsequent suffering caused by the race to which I belong. Reading these books ultimately makes me a better person, and hopefully, in a small way, will bring about change through working with our staff, having conversations with children, and shifting practices as a school. Creating libraries for children and teachers through programs like READ IN COLOR is one such practice.