The WNDB team has watched with alarm as book bans have swept the country, from Texas and Idaho to Virginia and Florida. More often than not, these challenges specifically target books that feature diverse characters. Research by PEN America has found that 41 percent of books banned in the United States in the last nine months have featured protagonists of color, while 31 percent included LGBTQ+ topics or LGBTQ+ characters, with 7 percent of this figure featuring trans characters and topics.
In response, We Need Diverse Books recently established the Educators Making a Difference Grants to support educators who believe in the importance of incorporating diverse books by diverse authors into their schools, libraries, and organizations. We received nearly 600 applications and have selected 35 winners who will each receive $2,000 for their institution. The projects funded include:
- Broadening the selection of LGBTQIA+ books at a school in California that, as recently as 2019, didn’t have a single title with LGBTQIA+ representation.
- Providing diverse books and resources to a bookmobile in rural Pennsylvania so that the 5000 students it serves will have both “window” and “mirror” titles to read.
- Funding a school-wide literature festival in Wisconsin that will celebrate diverse books and provide community healing following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
We asked the educators what impact this grant will have at their school or library, and here is what a few of them shared:
- “Including LGBTQ+ books in our library is something our students have been asking for,” said Jason Kinsella, teacher-librarian at Richard E. Byrd Middle School in Sun Valley, California, who is going to purchase books to expand the collection of LGBTQ+ books and other books that feature diverse characters. “Seeing these titles on the shelves will help students who are often marginalized to feel welcomed and included, as well as show our entire school community that diversity is not simply tolerated, but is celebrated on our campus.”
- “Every year I have students tell me that they cannot read outside of school because they do not have books at home,” said Liz Sinclair Fisher, Library Media Specialist at Atkinson Elementary School in North Andover, Massachusetts. Sinclair Fisher is using the grant to purchase book club sets of All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat and The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas, along with diverse picture books for the library. “This grant will make it possible to update our school library collection, and give students access to books that are relevant to their lives and interests. Every student deserves books where they can see themselves and their families represented, and this will help us make that a reality.”
- “My educational mission is to remind students and families that their home language(s) and culture(s) are valuable and deserve to be amplified,” said An Nguyen, first-grade teacher at Francis Scott Key Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Nguyen is using this grant to purchase bilingual books in Burmese/English, Khmer/English, Nepali/English, Spanish/English, Swahili/English, and Vietnamese/English for students who may be bilingual or multilingual or who have multilingual families. “The Educators Making a Difference Grant will allow me to strengthen this mission by providing students and families with access to multilingual/multicultural texts to maintain hearing stories in their home language while also building their home library with texts that highlight their culture(s) and language(s).”
- “I believe every child deserves the opportunity to dream of a brighter future,” said Melissa Robles, Library Media Specialist at Aida C. Escobar Elementary in Pharr, Texas. She plans to use the grant to buy diverse texts, like Refugee by Alan Gratz, as well as craft supplies for her students. “This grant will give my students the opportunity to hear other success stories and inspire them.”
We Need Diverse Books aims to offer more Educators Making a Difference Grants in 2022, pending funding.
WNDB has also widened our current Emergency Grants to include diverse teachers, librarians, and educators in need. These grants provide up to $1,000 for recipients experiencing financial hardship, due to medical bills, natural disasters, COVID-19, loss of employment (including reasons such as discrimination, anti-CRT, or book ban protests), and more. Applicants must meet the criteria described on the grant application.
Press Contact: Elissa Petruzzi, email@example.com