All the World's a Classroom

Interview with Read4Unity: Diverse Books for the Community

Interview with Read4Unity: Diverse Books for the Community

I’d like to introduce all of you, readers, to Read4Unity, an awesome Atlanta-based initiative to spread diverse books in the community, started by two enterprising women, Yenny and Sara. I have a personal connection here, since they are both Indonesians living in the U.S., and Yenny’s sister and brother-in-law are good friends from way back (see their photography work at enmuseart.com).

 

If my last posts on Children’s Books That Celebrate Differences and the Reading Guide to Antiracist Books appeal to you, then Read4Unity is right up your alley. They are taking real and important actions in their community. Please consider supporting their work (see below).

 

Read on for an interview with Read4Unity!

 

1. What is Read4Unity?

 

We are a grassroots literacy initiative (501c3 pending) with a vision to be the bridge that inspires a diverse narrative in literacy, one book at a time, and we start this by collecting and distributing diverse books (kidlit & adult by BIPOC authors and/or featuring BIPOC main characters) to little free libraries, teachers in low-funded schools and other community partners in metro Atlanta and beyond.

 

Our ultimate goal is to sustainably grow and expand Read 4 Unity’s reach to serve communities with much-needed diverse books NATIONWIDE!

 

2. What inspired you to start Read4Unity? 

I was living and working in south Atlanta for a few years, in largely underserved populations and predominantly African Americans, and during that time, I saw first hand the direct impact of systemic injustices in a form of socio-economic disparities, along with extreme lack of equity in literacy and education. I volunteered as a tutor in libraries lacking diverse books that represent the kids I tutored. Without seeing people who look like them, it was tough to instill the love of reading. I saw very little books with black and people of color as main characters, despite the fact that I lived in a predominantly black community.
 
 
Following those experiences, I wanted to find the most tangible ways I can make my small impact as an individual, and after jotting down ideas and planning on paper for the past few years, I decided to take the first step. With a dear friend of mine, Sara, my fellow Indonesian in ATL, we share this passion to play our small part, and we brainstormed and decided to start curating and collecting diverse childrens books by BIPOC authors and distributing them to little free libraries throughout ATL just as a starting point, and a month later, here we are!
 
 

 

 

3. What is your vision for what you’d like to achieve in the near term and long term?

Near term (now and the next 3 months!):

1. Author partnerships: @qianasbraids and @detectivewordy are helping us not only with book donations but also with our strategic programs!

2. Organizational partnerships: we will install our first 2 R4U libraries soon at Refuge Coffee in Clarkston GA and downtown ATL!

3. R4U champion program: we have been asked by so many people on how to volunteer with us. We need help in collecting and distributing books in your local areas. Email us at read4unity@gmail.com or DM us on IG at Read4Unity for details!

4. We are in conversations with a major library and an institution for some exciting partnerships in the near future! Can’t wait to share them with you all soon.

 

 
Between now and 2022, we hope to install 30 Read 4 Unity libraries in various community partners (such as community centers, underfunded/small charter schools catered to underserved population, etc). We plan to recruit Read 4 Unity champions (volunteers) to help us achieve these goals.
 
Our long-term goal is to mobilize college students all over the US in creating Read 4 Unity Campus Champions (150 campus clubs in 5 years!), with a robust toolkit and leadership program to start a Read 4 Unity Club on campus. We aspire that our Campus Champions will be our extension in providing volunteer-based literacy programs in disadvantaged communities around their respective areas (by establishing reading mentor program, book club, etc)
 
 

 

Yenny - Read4Unity

Yenny, Read4Unity founder.

Sara - Read4Unity

Sara, Read4Unity founder.

4. Since you’ve started, what have been the responses from people/communities?

We just passed our 30 day mark since we officially started, and as of today, we have received 170 diverse book donations from communities and authors all over the US! We have also secured meaningful partnerships with other organizations, and are in discussions with several more like-minded organizations for future partnerships!
 
 
 

 

5. What exciting things can we look forward soon?

Stay tuned for the grand opening of our first 2 libraries at Refuge Coffee in a few weeks where we will host book clubs and other fun literacy initiatives for kids and adults! Many of those will be virtual!
 
 
 

 

6. How can we engage and be a part of Read4Unity?

– DONATE BOOKS: We need at least 150 books for our 2 first libraries we are installing at Refuge Coffee! Please support us by sending us books from our WISH LIST
– DONATE FUNDS: you can send donation via Venmo (Read4Unity) so we can purchase books at a discounted rate to fill our libraries!
– Share our mission on your social media platforms, friends, and family!
– Follow us on Instagram and Website
– Be our champion and volunteer your time, skills, and resources. We currently need a read-aloud champion to be featured on our Instagram on a weekly basis, reading various diverse children’s books, and we need champions to distribute books in your area!
 

 

What are you waiting for? Check our their pages, send over books, and get involved!

 

My Favorite Children’s Books That Celebrate Differences

My Favorite Children’s Books That Celebrate Differences

This post is part of the Favorite Children’s Books series. See all the posts in the series here.

 

For the fifth installment of my favorite children’s books, I’m focusing on children’s books that celebrate differences. With the ongoing racial reckoning in the United States that finds its echoes globally, it behooves parents to be acutely intentional with the way we teach our children about humanity and the various colors and cultures we embody. Even young children can embrace negative racial stereotypes that we consciously or subconsciously hold. So while we fight any racist idea or thought within ourselves, we need to also impart better values in our children.

 

One of the best ways to raise antiracist kids is by diversifying their reading selections. For example, pick up books by diverse authors, books that have diverse characters and graphics, stories that tell counter-cultural stereotypes. Have books that have diverse heroes–characters that center the story line that come in different colors and from different cultures. Also, read books with characters that your kids can see themselves in, not just as token characters, but as characters that truly represent who they are and how they do life.

 

We need to do better. I need to do better. And better is never inevitable; it always takes effort and work. Let’s do this together!

 

For an adult version of antiracist books, see this Reading Guide to Antiracist Books.

I think this is my new all-time favorite book. The Day You Begin is poetic, beautifully illustrated, and most importantly, teaching the very important lesson to open up and share the gift of who you are with the world. My younger self could really use this lesson, as well as my present self.

Amazon | Bookshop

Written by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has grown up with diabetes, this book tells the stories of kids with different abilities, with their challenges, and with their particular gifts of going through the world.

Amazon | Bookshop

 

One Big Heart is written from a Christian worldview. This fun book celebrates differences and the commonality in all of us–one big heart.

Amazon | Bookshop

Be Kind is an inner reflection of a child on What does kindness look like? And on the power of that kindness to each recipient.

Amazon | Bookshop

For any child who may think that they don’t matter, You Matter!

Amazon | Bookshop

What are your favorite children’s books that celebrate differences? 

Children's Books That Celebrate Differences

To support independent bookstores, shop these books from my Bookshop.org list.

 

*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!

*Bookshop.org links on this page are also affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you purchase from these links, which also help independent bookstores across the country.

Best Books of 2020: Part 1

Best Books of 2020: Part 1

This is my first installment of the best books of 2020. If you’re curious about all the books I’ve read in 2020, see this page.

1. How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi


Also featured in my Reading Guide to Antiracist Books. A must-read for this moment that we inhabit. Kendi’s parsing of definitions and overlapping concepts brings so much clarity to the complex spheres that race touches. 

I love investigative journalism stories. This book is the riveting behind-the-scenes account of Kantor and Twohey’s reporting on sexual harassment and abuse by Harvey Weinstein. 

Also an unbelievable story behind Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein. Incredible reporting that also revealed systems that protect the rich and powerful.

If you want to take a break from current issues and read an entertaining science book that evokes wonder, this is the book for it. This book is highly readable and informative, unveiling the hidden, scientific magic of everyday items like your utensils, chocolate, and more. It reminds me Hope Jahren’s quote in Lab Girl, “Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.”

Nate Silver, the man behind FiveThirtyEight.com, outlines fundamental principles on how we should relate to data. It is incredibly insightful, providing lasting lessons as we go deeper into the age of big data. The book is first published in 2012, but its insights become even more relevant now. (It even has a chapter on epidemic and data).

Insightful reflections from a variety of individuals on how the Christian faith can engage culture, more specifically a divided culture.

 

Often science and faith are pitted against each other. But that is not the only conversation that takes place. The other framing of the relationship between science and faith, one that I connect with more, is the one Tippett presents in this book: the connection between science and spirituality. 

Other best books lists

2019: Best Books of 2019 Part 1, Best Books of 2019 Part 2.

2018: Best Books of 2018 Part 1, Best Books of 2018 Part 2.

2017Best Books of 2017 Part 1, Best Books of 2017 Part 2.

2016Best Books of 2016 Part 1Best Books of 2016 Part 2.

2015Best Books of 2015 Part 1Best Books of 2015 Part 2.

 

*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!

 

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