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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

In Other Words: The Gift of Books is the Gift of Understanding

Samples of diverse reading. Courtesy Tabitha Tolliver

One of the wonderful qualities about this town is that residents make things happen. If they see a need, they fill it. They just step up and do it. And it doesn’t matter the need. 

That’s what happened when a group of moms saw that something was missing. This group - Kara Uhl, Sarah Foster, Kristen Banocy, Sally Race, and Tabitha Buchert Tolliver - saw that their children did not have a wide selection of diverse reading material at their school. 

Tabitha Buchert Tolliver told me that “I have two black boys - Cash is 8 and Tristan is 5. We have diversified our own personal bookshelf. It is a beautiful thing, and I have witnessed how excited they get to read books with character who look like them. We have shared our bookshelf with friends and neighbors. They love the books and talk about how we are all special and important, even if we are different….So, I thought… wouldn’t it be amazing if we could get the entire Woodfill family involved to buy books for our classrooms that focus on diversity and inclusion?”And just like that the diverse reading book drive was created.

Kristen Banocy, the Woodfill PTO president, says, “We felt that introducing kids to diversity at a young age would help them become more comfortable with diversity later in life. We also hope that students' exposure to multicultural literature will help them connect to other cultures, decrease prejudice, and increase empathy toward other races and ethnicities.”

Courtesy Tabitha Tolliver

Sally Race, Administrative Assistant for Teaching and Learning, says that “I am encouraged by the results and possibility of reapplication at the other schools. This complements the Inclusive Excellence initiative that FTIS is pursuing very well…. I was happy to help this group with such a meaningful pursuit.... It’s important to learn more about valuing differences through exposure to literature written by and about those different from ourselves. This also aligns with the competencies of the FTIS Portrait of a Graduate especially global communicator and empathetic collaborator.”

Tolliver observed that “The current program was designed to diversify the bookshelves in the classrooms. We identified a substantial list of books for K-5 so that each classroom has the opportunity to receive a stack of books that project the mission of diversity, equity, accessibly and inclusion.” And, of course, one of the best independent book stores for young readers, The Blue Marble, is in the neighborhood and was a great asset to the drive. 

Kristen Banocy says, “I have learned that there is more diversity at Woodfill Elementary than I thought. A few of the moms in our group are raising black and brown kids, and they long for books representing their children. My white kids have an extensive selection of books with white main characters and heroes to choose from on the bookshelves, and we want the same for our black and brown friends.”

Tolliver says, that “Fort Thomas, and especially the Woodfill family have all made me so proud to be a resident and raise my two boys here. I will say. Our kids are watching. They are listening. They are making decisions about how to live their life based on the adults in their lives. I hope we made our kiddos proud with this program.” 

The Tolliver Family. Courtesy Tabitha Tolliver

That’s true. The kids are watching and the examples that we show at home will influence their futures. 

I asked Banocy why it is important for children to read from a diverse selection. She says that, “We felt that introducing kids to diversity at a young age would help them become more comfortable with diversity later in life. We also hope that students' exposure to multicultural literature will help them connect to other cultures, decrease prejudice, and increase empathy toward other races and ethnicities.” 

Reading is a form of travel. and like Mark Twain observed, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

The group has collected almost 200 books but if you would like to donate, please ship books to Kara Uhl, 14 Crowell Avenue, Fort Thomas or drop them off on the front porch.

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