by Robin Kemp

Clayton County is the lucky recipient of additional Little Free Libraries, thanks to Family Literacy of Georgia and Fathers Incorporated. The LFLs are part of the Read in Color initiative, which places books representing diverse people in underserved communities. Additional support came from Read4Unity, Everybody Wins! Atlanta, HarperCollins Publishers’ Read in Full Color program, and Scholastic’s Power of Story program. The initiative announced Saturday includes 3,500 books and 20 new Little Free Library locations throughout metro Atlanta.

According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, fewer than 25% of children’s books include non-white characters. A study of Newberry Award-winning children’s books noted that, in 2019, according to the CCBC, 4,029 children’s books with both human and non-human characters were published in the United States. However, “only 26.6% contained racially/ethnically diverse themes, topics, and/or human main or principal secondary characters.The American Library Association has published an extensive online bibliography documenting the problem.

By making culturally-relevant books available in high-need communities, children from diverse groups can see themselves represented on the printed page.

The program also helps the “steward,” or caretaker, of each Little Free Library buy books from independent bookstores and booksellers who are Black, indigenous, or people of color.

Shavawn Simmons, executive director of Family Literacy of Georgia in Morrow, said “What an honor to be selected to partner with the Little Free Library organization on Read in Color, a program to intentionally place book-sharing structures in communities of color. For me the cherry on the pie is the fact that each of our stewards will receive a year of free new diverse books: diverse authors, diverse topics, and characters centered on people of color.”

Here’s where Clayton County’s newest Little Free Libraries are. The Clayton Crescent will add them to our curated map for future reference and ease of finding.


The Clayton Crescent’s curated map of LFL and other free libraries in Clayton County

If your library is not on this map, e-mail the location’s name and address, with a photo clearly showing what the library looks like if you’re standing right in front of it, to editor@claytoncrescent.org and we will add it!


When Charley Met Emma is the story of two kids, one who uses a wheelchair and one who doesn’t, who meet in the park and get to know each other.
Merci Suarez Changes Gears is about a sixth-grader dealing with class differences at her school and her grandfather’s changing behavior at home.

Clayton County Commission Chair Jeff Turner said, “Clayton County is delighted to have at least one Read in Color Little Free Library in each one of the county’s districts. We are a diverse community, and as such, it only seems right to highlight the Read in Color initiative in the county of Clayton. ClaytonCounty is a home to a community of citizens from 90 different countries of origin. 72 different languages are spoken, with the major two foreign languages being Spanish and Vietnamese. 9,528 students speak a language other than English, and 4,600 are counted as English-language learners. So it’s easy to see how Claytonites will benefit from the Little Free Library Read in Color initiative. Clayton County citizens: I invite you to read in color and share your own stories. Thank you to Family Literacy of Georgia for this fabulous opportunity.”

Steward Lillie Golden said, “I received my box of books the other day, and I was so excited. There are so many beautiful books in there for the children, as well as some adults.” She recommends When Charlie Met Emma, a book about kids with special needs, and Dads, a picture book which shows lots of different kinds of fathers.

Forest Park Councilman Hector Gutierrez said he’s excited about the new Little Free Library. “I’m an educator, and there’s a big word gap in a lot of our communities, the Black and Brown communities, so something like this where we can offer literacy and books to our community gets me excited because that’s where the change starts. It starts in the communities, and it starts with the small little things we do, like having a library accessible to our children where they might not be able to have a ride to the library, or might not know where even the library is. With little programs like this, we can just get the books closer to them. It’s just beautiful to read and pick up a book.”

Gutierrez added, “Nowadays, with so many screens and so many distractions that our children are growing up with, I feel like having an accessible small library can really make a difference in a child’s life.”

Jonesboro Councilwoman Pat Sebo-Hand explained, “The advantage for our children to have representation in the books that they read is very critical. It is critical to their learning, of them being a part of the community, in such a diverse community as we have in the City of Jonesboro.” Shea aded that she and her husband “built and placed a Little Free Library in front of Lee Street Elementary,” and called the program’s impact on Jonesboro “enormous. We have one behind City Hall, the one at Lee Street Park, we have one at Stately Oaks, and one was recently installed in front of the apartments over at Keystone. So we just absolutely embrace the Little Free Library organization, because it has benefitted our children tremendously.”

Here’s a video announcing the initiative:

“It is an opportunity for people in our community, the underserved community, to have a voice, to be able to see from different cultures, from different perspectives, to learn about others,” said Forest Park Councilwoman Kimberly James, “and be connected as one in our community.”

Here’s a video HarperCollins Read in Full Color uses to illustrate the concept of diversity in children’s books:

“Our mission at Family Literacy of Georgia is perfect for the Read in Color program,” Simmons said. “We seek to deliver literacy resources to communities of color that will inspire kids and their families to ‘look forward’ to reading! We seek to build enthusiasm for reading outside of the classroom setting where kids often see reading as work. Through our agency, we are really trying to provide children and their families another experience with reading. We want them to read for pleasure!”

She added that Family Literacy of Georgia plans fundraising “to purchase and stock Read in Color Little Free Libraries to install across the metro region, then the state.”

“We are proud to work alongside such incredible community-centered organizations as Family Literacy of Georgia and Fathers Incorporated to improve book access and build community through the sharing of diverse books in Little Free Libraries,” said Shelby King, Director of Programs at LFL. “It is our hope that through these new libraries, books that provide perspectives on racism and social justice; celebrate BIPOC, LGBTQ, and other important voices; and incorporate experiences from all identities for all readers will make their way into the hands and homes of people all over the city.”

Your local Clayton County librarian also can help you find children’s books that feature diverse characters and people from their own communities–as well as books about communities that differ from your own.


Resources


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