September 15, 2021 -- Columbus City Schools is one of four school districts in Central Ohio to receive a grant that has added over 100 age-appropriate children's books about diversity and inclusion to every elementary school library. The Belonging Through Books (BTB) grant is in partnership with WOSU Classroom and the non-profit group, Harper’s Corner whose mission is to expand minds and grow hearts one book at a time.
“This is the first time we have ever received this grant,” said Lynda Ray, a Multiple Literacy Specialist here at CCS. “I think it is so important for our student’s social-emotional health to be able to find themselves in a book. It helps them build self-esteem and confidence. To see themselves in a book makes them feel very important.”
Ms. Ray’s favorites include Angela Joy’s Black is a Rainbow Color because of the illustrations and celebration of identity, history, culture, struggle, and activism. Ray also likes Intersection Allies: We Make Room for All by Carolyn Choi and Chelsea Johnson. In this book, the authors use rhyme to embrace rather than shy away from differences.
Even though the new school year began less than a month ago, Ms. Ray said that students are already discovering the new books thanks in large part to the Library Instructional Assistants such as Michelle Kulewicz at Stewart Alternative Elementary School.
“A student asked me if I was okay using the pronouns he/him instead of she/her,” said Ms. Kulewicz. “Then I showed him some books. He ended up checking out When Aiden Became a Brother and Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History. I was thrilled, and so was the student who told me he was surprised he could find these books in his school library.”
In addition to the books, the grant also provides professional development to educators on how to incorporate these diverse children’s books into their curriculum.
“Teachers and staff will have the opportunity to engage in discussions about the books, resistance and discomfort in school spaces, as well as reading diverse literature critically,” said Amy Palermo, chief content director, WOSU Classroom. “It’s hoped that the professional development will provide educators with more knowledge and confidence in using diverse books to support their educational practices.”
The grant is a year-long partnership designed to build kindness and respect for everyone.