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!

 

Best Books of 2018: Part 2

Best Books of 2018: Part 2

It’s the end of 2018, which means it’s time for the second installment of the best books I’ve read this year! Click here to see the first part of the list.

If you’re curious about all the books I’ve read in 2018, check out this page.

 

1. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

 

This book tells the chilling story of the insidious conspiracy to murder members of the Osage Nation in order to gain their wealth. The historical backdrop of the story is the apportioning of land to Native Americans across this country. In the early 1900s, it so happened that oil was discovered in the land owned by the Osage Nation, sending its members to unprecedented wealth and opulence. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed, many through poisoning. There were concerted efforts to rob the Osage of their power and money through legal, financial, or even familial measures. 

The book’s narrative is anchored in the story of Mollie Burkhart, whose family members began to die one by one. It’s a tragic series of events that is part of this country’s history, one that also birthed the FBI.

I love this book because of the Asian voice and point of view, which is refreshing in the canon of American contemporary literature. The narrator of the book is a communist double agent, a man in between two worlds, one in which he’s immersed in the more Western, pro-American side of the Vietnam war, and the other in which he’s a dedicated communist. The duality of his personhood and identity is wonderfully explored in the book. And I have to say, it resonates a lot with the duality of identity that many immigrants face in America.

Bird by Bird is lauded by many podcasters I listen to. I’m glad I finally read it. Anne Lamott bestows upon us her deep wisdom in going through life, and especially in writing. Reading this book is like going to therapy. Personally, it helps me break through certain barriers and “internal filters” that I have allowed to constrain myself in writing and telling stories. It’s like Anne gives me the permission to do this. I’m still early on this journey, but I look forward to taking the next steps.

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt is a recent publication that talks about significant cultural shifts in some American universities with regards to free speech. Yes, it deals with issues that are taking place on college campuses during the past few years (e.g,. disinviting controversial speakers, rioting to protest people with fringe ideas). But I think it illuminates a generational shift that is very much happening in the overall society. If you care, even remotely, about culture and sociology, this is a must read. It’s a chance to revisit what the role of education is all about, and what it means to have a marketplace of ideas.

5. Becoming

 


 

 

 

Becoming is the best-selling book of the year, deservedly so, because Michelle Obama writes a beautiful and profound memoir. What I appreciate the most about this book is that the author isn’t “cashing out” of her status as the most popular former first lady. Instead, she goes deep. The book is deeply personal, deeply reflective, a testament to someone who has been self-aware of the development of her personhood for a long time. It is a book about identity, life-work, meaning, and passion. It is about a continual journey to become ourselves. I even get some professional counsels out of it, some I’ve never heard before in any other business/women empowerment space before. It’s such a worthy read!

 

Well, let me end this year with something light, but inspiring. If you follow Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets, they are just bursts of positivity. But also poetic. This book is a collection of his morning and evening tweets, with fun illustrations. It’s just simply delightful, perfect to say “Gnight” to 2018, and “Gmorning” to 2019.

 

Happy New Year! And see you in 2019!

 

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!

 

My Favorite Children’s Books: Part 3

My Favorite Children’s Books: Part 3

This post is part of the Favorite Children’s Books series.

 

This is the third installment of my favorite children’s books. Looking for Christmas gifts for your little ones? I think these books would make perfect gifts!

 

A particular theme that I love in children’s books, or in general, is turning mistakes or weaknesses into strengths. I’m a big fan of the message that encourages creativity to reframe seemingly negative experiences into positives. I know I need to hear this often, and it is never to early to instill this reframing skill in our kids.

 

By the way, some of the books recommended in my previous posts (here and here) are on sale on Amazon like Rosie Revere, Engineer and What Do You Do With An Idea . Also, use Honey to track price changes on books and everything else you’re shopping for. It’s great for the holiday season!

 

As usual, help me find more fantastic children’s books by commenting your favorites.

 

This one is an interactive book that shows you and your little ones how oopsies, like torn paper or a smear, can be turned into a beautiful creation. I love the message. And seeing the message illustrated visually just impresses the mind that much more.

 


 

In my house, this book guarantees a laugh from my son. For that alone, I’d read it a hundred times. But this too is a beautiful story about seeing ourselves in new light. As an added bonus, it also rhymes and rhythmic. I can’t get enough of books with rhythm!

 

True to the title, this book’s cover is not shown in this post’s picture (see above). Written by B.J. Novak of The Office, with mischief, this book makes you say whatever it says out loud, no matter how ridiculous. It’s a super fun read. Also guarantees a laugh.

 

Nothing too deep here. But the pictures are funny. And I guess underwear is just funny. 

 

Eraser is feeling invisible and unrecognized, because her job, though important, is invisible. She erases the mistakes of others. Again, it’s about finding your individuality, reframing weakness into strength. 

 

What are your favorite children’s books? Shoot me your favorite titles!

Product links on this post are affiliate links, which means I get credits if you purchase products through them. Would appreciate it if you do!