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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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)