A small group of locals are organizing a book drive in order to provide Enumclaw School District elementary schools with more books featuring people of color.
Paula Pritchard, the mother of two elementary school students, said making sure her kids are exposed to people who look and think differently than they do is extremely important to her family. So, with the coronavirus having killed her wedding flower arrangement business for the foreseeable future, she decided to share that passion with her city.
The goal is to collect 500 books — enough to donate 100 each to ESD’s five elementaries.
“We’re trying to focus on books for kindergarten through fifth grade, with a focus on books about regular kids doing regular kid stuff,” Pritchard said in a recent interview. “It’s easier to find books where it’s about historical figures or social justice — and those are important too, and we’re happy to have those books also — but it seems a little bit harder to track down books that are just about kids who happen to look different from each other.”
Historically, that is certainly the case; the Cooperative Children’s Book Center analyzes thousands of children’s books every year to determine how many were written by or are about the BIPOC community (Black, Indigenous, and people of color). For decades, those books made up only a small fraction of the total number of children’s books published for any given year.
For example, the CCBC reported only about 9 percent of the estimated 4,500 to 5,000 children’s books published in 1997 were by or about people of color.
Gains have certainly been made since then — in 2018, the CCBC found nearly half of the nearly 3,653 books it analyzed that year were by or about people of color — but it’ll likely be a while before the total number of BIPOC books reflect the fact that people of color make up 40 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Superintendent Mike Nelson, who will soon be leaving his position to take up a role at the Washington Association of School Administrators, said the schools are excited to receive these books.
“Our elementary schools are thrilled to be the recipients of a community book drive to increase Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color as the main characters in stories,” Nelson wrote in an email interview. “As educators we find that the use of books, particularly picture books, provide a strong vehicle to engage in conversations with our students about the important values of empathy, kindness, compassion, acceptance and diversity, to name a few. We are grateful for this general drive to support the learning of our students as well as our district’s mission.”
Originally, Pritchard was hoping that she wouldn’t have to deal with monetary donations, saying that she wanted the drive to “be a community effort where people bring their own perspective to the process of selecting a book,” but quickly realized that many people may not be able to buy a new book to donate, what with COVID-19 having affected so many people’s bottom lines.
So for those who want to participate but can’t afford to buy a book at the moment, Pritchard’s friend Julianne Deshayes — owner of the local Something to Chalk About chalk art business, — has designed a sticker that promotes diverse reading for people to buy. All the money from the sticker sales will be used to buy books from The Sequel bookstore in Enumclaw, which is supporting the drive.
As of June 15, nearly $1,600 was raised in sticker sales.
“This is a way that we can make a lasting change,” Deshayes said. “We can affect more than just what’s happening now. The books will be around next year. They’ll be around five years from now. And, hopefully, they’ll continue to work even when this issue isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds anymore.”
The “We Are Made Of Stories” sticker can be bought for $5 on Something To Chalk About’s website at www.somethingtochalkaboutjd.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html.
Book donations can either be mailed to Paula Pritchard at P.O. Box 201, Enumclaw, WA, 98022, or dropped off at The Sequel at 1455 Cole St. As of last Monday, more than 100 had already been donated.
“It’s like Christmas around here right now — books showing up at my P.O. Box and on my doorstep every day,” Pritchard said.
More information about the book drive can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/events/2970343366335276/.