Love & Acceptance at the Library
by Vicki Oatis
The library is a place that welcomes all, in both times of harmony and division. At the Norwalk Public Library, we have been working with a new non-profit group called the Love ALL Project, which was started in February 2017 to support diversity and unite communities. Together, we hosted a family storytelling event in June in collaboration with Acting Out with Ms. Karen and the Al-Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk. Families from our community were invited to meet new people over dinner and work together to create stories about love and acceptance.
We made sure to display books about diversity and acceptance during the program. Families could check them out and continue the conversations to learn about people from backgrounds different from their own.
This is a golden age in children’s literature, especially when it comes to books by, and about, people of all cultures, religions and socio-economic situations. It is important that children find characters they can connect with and relate to. But, they should also read about, and have their minds open to, people and situations that help them understand that not everyone is just like them. Many times children will find that they may not relate to the situation a character is in, but they can still relate to that character’s thoughts and emotions, or vice-versa. A few years ago a study revealed that reading fiction helps people develop empathy. In other words, reading stories helps readers to understand other people better and, in this way, books should be both mirrors and windows into the world.
With all of these wonderful books at our fingertips, keeping in mind the empathy factor, and to also help support diversity and unite communities, I encourage families to take Gene Luen Yang’s Reading Without Walls Challenge:
- Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
- Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
- Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun (a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, etc.).
Here is a list of several books that can cover all three parts of the challenge, but I concentrated mainly on the first part dealing with diversity and social justice. I hope you enjoy these titles, but also learn something new about the world along the way.
- What’s the Difference?: Being Different is Amazing by Doyin Richards — A new picture book celebrating diversity and acceptance. (Ages Birth to 5).
- Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko — Picture book about connection, compassion and love. (Ages Birth to 5).
- Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes, illustrated by Sue Cornelison — Picture book story of an Iraqi family forced to flee their home. (Ages Preschool to Grade 3).
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson — The award-winning picture book takes you on a bus ride with CJ and his grandmother to different areas of their town. (Grades K-3).
- Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale, illustrated by Eleanor Shakespeare — Nonfiction picture book about five refugee families fleeing their home countries by boat. (Grades 3-5).
- Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan — Poetry book that uses real documents and beautiful illustrations to bring to life the thoughts and dreams of 11 slaves. (Grades 4-6).
- One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia — The fiction book follows three black sisters from Brooklyn to California to spend time with their estranged mother. (Grades 4-7).
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang — Graphic novel fiction about an Asian-American middle-schooler, the Chinese folk hero Monkey King, and an All-American teen. (Grades 7-12).
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon — Fictional account of Natasha, who is about to be deported back to Jamaica with her family; Daniel, the son of strict Korean-American parents; and the Universe. (Grades 8-12).
Events at the Norwalk Public Library
The Norwalk Public Library hosts many programs to bring people from our community together:
- Tunes & Tales Storytimes on Tuesday and Thursdays at 9:30 or 10:30 a.m.
- Music & Movement on Saturdays at 10 and 10:40 a.m.
- LEGO® Club on Thursdays at 4 p.m.
- CAFE Club — Cultural Awareness For Everyone. The CAFE Club is an open-minded discussion group where we talk about social justice issues, cultures from around the world and other trending topics — from mental health to income inequality to racism and more. CAFE Club is moderated by Sushmita Narayan and hosted by the Norwalk Public Library. Meets on Wednesdays, 7-8 p.m., for students in grades 8-11.
- Our next Love All Family Storytelling program will take place on Sunday, November 5 at 1 p.m. Please call 203-899-2780, ext. 15131 to register your family (children ages 5-12 accompanied by a grown up).
The Norwalk Public Library is located at 1 Belden Avenue. For more information, call 203-899-2780 or visit www.norwalklib.org.
Vicki Oatis is the Director of Youth Library Services at the Norwalk Public Library.