Stories can change lives forever and create a more connected and inclusive world is what I learned when creating The Bookshelf of Inclusion and Understanding, my Girl Scout Silver Award Project. This bookshelf is an empowering resource for all and filled with books about kids with different abilities/disabilities, and students from different racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.
Why did I create this? Like most projects or books, I decided on this project because it is something I needed in elementary school. My parents struggled to get answers regarding my special needs. Afraid of saying the wrong thing as a shy young child, I didn’t have the words on how to include new friends. Now we know how to as will the students, their parents, caregivers, and educators at Granbery Elementary School. In addition to books about muscular dystrophy and celebrating diversity, other topics include the death of a parent and anxiety. And yes, there is even a book about COVID-19. Also included are books specifically for parents, caregivers, educators, and counselors.
Why physical books instead of a website or computer-related tool? A CNN and Sesame Street Town Hall featured Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum discussed how picture books play a powerful role in encouraging children and families to discuss sensitive subjects.
“How can I duplicate this project?” you ask? Below are the basic steps in how to replicate the project.
- Find a partner or advisor who will use and maintain the bookshelf. This can be a school library or non-profit organization.
- Find a bookshelf. You can either have this donated, find one at a thrift store, or make one. National Business Furniture provided what my librarian wanted, a red bookshelf on wheels!
- Ask for books. Ask publishers. Ask authors. Ask friends. Ask teachers. I learned about Bookshop.org and asked them for books. Bookshop Founder Andy Hunter and his team donated over 30 books alone!
- Recognize all donors will need to be seen as partners. Each book had a bookplate side recognizing the donor’s contribution.
- Create a recognition sign to be placed on the bookshelf. This will help others understand what is on the bookshelf and how helpful it can be to them. The sign for my project was donated by Mike Alexander, owner of Signs First Franklin who was an Eagle Scout.
- Find a community partner to provide up to date resources. Megan Hart, Director of Tennessee Disability Pathfinder generously provided flyers in multiple languages. This is critically important in settings such as Granbery where English is a second language for many students.
- Schedule a time to deliver the bookshelf. While this was a challenge during this time of COVID-19, this can happen when you believe in the project and engage community partners who share your vision of a more inclusive world.
One of the greatest things about this basic project is I learned how I can affect change for my community for generations to come. For detailed instructions, please email me at email@example.com.
Danielle Parker is a girl scout in Franklin, TN.