At Carl Sandburg Elementary and Discovery Community School, a wave of inclusivity is sweeping through the library, thanks to the Lake Washington Schools Foundation’s (LWSF) Inclusive Libraries Grant. This district initiative, now in its third year of a 5-year commitment, aims to diversify school library collections, ensuring every student sees themselves and their peers reflected in the books they read.
As part of the Inclusive Libraries project, Librarian Kerry Glassburn performed a diversity audit of her school’s library collection. Responding to the disparities between student demographics and the representation in the library’s offerings, she embarked on a journey to make a significant change. Her approach involved incorporating a wide range of diverse literature, encompassing picture books, early readers, chapter books, and nonfiction titles. These books feature protagonists identifying as Asian, Native American, Latinx, Black, LGBTQ+, individuals with disabilities, and much more.
The end result is a meticulously curated collection of 203 new books, each bearing a unique narrative that resonates with students from all walks of life.
In her words, Kerry introduces you to four of these inspiring books, selected to embrace diversity, foster empathy, and ignite imaginations.
Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzales and Gabriela Epstein
In this graphic novel, five kids in middle school are being forced to complete community service hours together due to a misunderstanding. They have nothing in common except they all speak Spanish and they feel invisible at school. The author does a great job of authentically presenting the characters by delivering much of the dialog in Spanish with English translations nearby. The story itself is creatively written by starting with the students in the principal’s office and then unveiling various details of how the kids got in that situation with each of the students telling their part of the story. Relatable characters and expressive illustrations complement a compelling story.
A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser
This middle grade book tells the story from alternating perspectives of two kids living in a homeless shelter: June, who has recently moved in after the death of her father; and Tyrell, who has been at the shelter with his mom for three years. This book incorporates many serious topics into the connected storylines without becoming too heavy: friendship, family, mental health and depression, reasons for being unhoused, social justice and music! The characters are masterfully developed through the story arc, and you come to care about them and their situations, cheering at the positive ending.
Finding My Dance by Ria Thundercloud
A beautifully illustrated picture book memoir about the author’s journey as a dancer. Her love of dance began with her first powwow as a Jingle Dancer; as she grew older, she discovered other forms of dance that spoke to her, and eventually became a professional. Ms. Thundercloud weaves in the traditions and cultural significance of dancing within the Ho-Chunk Nation with discussions of how she felt both as a Native dancer and a classical dancer. This powerful story will uplift all readers, but especially young dancers.
Rainbow Hands by Mamta Nainy
This is a sweet picture book about a boy in India who likes to paint his nails to match the color of what he sees around him each day. His father doesn’t understand why he needs to paint his nails and not paper instead, but the boy receives support from his mother and grandpa and his father seems to come around at the end. This beautiful book lyrically pairs colors with feelings, nature and dreams and encourages children to express themselves in whichever way they are comfortable doing so.
These four books represent the essence of inclusivity, diversity, and the power of storytelling. Through the dedication of librarians like Kerry Glassburn and the support of LWSF’s Inclusive Libraries Grant, these books will become the gateway to understanding, empathy, and a broader perspective for students at Carl Sandburg Elementary and Discovery Community School. Each book is a stepping stone on a journey of inclusion, and we look forward to the positive impact they will have on young minds, fostering a love for reading and a deeper understanding of the world around them.
Learn more about the Inclusive Libraries grant at www.lwsf.org/our-work/inclusive-libraries.