I am an elementary school librarian in an urban setting in Massachusetts. Through the work of creating a more representative and inclusive library collection for my students, I learned a lot about the politics of the publishing industry, the accepted institutional racism and purposeful exclusion of communities in books and that we should be outraged at the continued disenfranchisement of our children.
Follow me on Twitter: @reflectlibrary

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Community

As my Book Bike launch is coming (Check out my fun Book Bike project here.), I have really been reflecting on the power of community and change. This is something that I talk about with all of my students K-5, often through read-alouds like "Magic Trash", "Biblioburro", and "Mama Miti" (from 9 trees in her back yard to nearly 40 million across the green belt!).  But I wonder how many of my students and their families actually feel like their voice is heard and holds importance in our community?

Over the last two years, I have invited public figures, the mayor, city councilors, school committee members and administration to my school library for short intimate talks with students and their families. I serve coffee and do my best to moderate. I love this forum. It is a time to speak your mind and get an immediate response, to field questions and ideas. What I do notice however, is that the same families attend over and over. While their voices and perspectives are indeed important, I worry that only a very myopic view is being represented. How can I change this? Because I operate only within the school day, 8:00-2:45, I struggle to find a more inclusive time. Also, I think about how some people's experiences in and around schools are not positive, already feeling a disassociation or even disenfranchisement with the immediate community. Then of course, there are other time obligations, jobs, interest levels, etc...

Mayor David Maher and School Committee member Fred Fantini talk to parents in the school library.

The Book Bike is an idea that may answer this in a small way. One of my main foci  as a librarian is to empower children as readers, learners and citizens in their world. For many students the access to books over the summer decreases immensely. While Cambridge has an amazing public library system, it is not fair or accurate to assume that students will be able to access it.  Going to where many children are in the summer makes sense. We will travel to 3 parks in Cambridge that will be offering other events, like movement activities and free lunch. Children are already there to play, to move, to eat, and now they will be able to hear a story and take a book home, FREE. I'm excited to see how many people we reach and whether this involves a greater swath of our community.

Follow the Book Bike on twitter: @Book_Bike
Read more about it here: www.cambridgebookbike.org

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