Like many bookstores right now, BookPeople is actively talking about using our platform to better represent diverse voices, to champion the spirit of inclusivity, and to keep making our store a safe space for all members of our community. Elizabeth Bluemle and Leslie Hawkins have written this week about some concrete actions their stores are taking. I wanted to chime in to talk about some ways BookPeople has begun partnering with the Anti-Defamation League in our area and to provide links to some resources that might interest other stores.
As I’m sure you know, ADL has been fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry and protecting civil rights for all for over a century – a mission that could not be more critical right now. They’ve also been working with Austin schools since 2004 through the No Place for Hate® initiative. From what I’ve seen and heard from Austin educators, it’s a truly innovative program that provides a framework for schools to combat hatred and bias by building environments of respect that allow all students to thrive. I knew about ADL’s excellent programming in the schools, but I didn’t realize how much they focus on books to engage kids in conversations about bias and bullying and social justice.
ADL’s Books That Matter program champions an idea that booksellers all know–that “books have the potential to create lasting impressions.” And after I met Jillian Bontke, ADL Austin’s Education Director last summer, we realized there was a lot of potential to work together. Here are some of the ways we’re working with ADL now along with some terrific online resources available to stores around the country.
FEATURING ADL’S BOOK OF THE MONTH: While there are an impressive 800 books in ADL’s Books That Matter Program, covering 11 categories, they highlight one Book of the Month every month, for which they supply detailed discussion guides for parents and educators to extend the book’s themes. We’ve been featuring the books and resources links in our kids e-newsletter since last fall, and it’s been a terrific way to both highlight important books and point our customers toward expertly crafted guides for discussion. If you’d like to do the same, February’s Book of the Month is a personal favorite: Firebird by Misty Copeland.
FACILITATING EDUCATOR RESOURCES & DIALOGUE: I was at the Children’s Institute in Pasadena last year where Jewell Parker Rhodes gave that incredible speech that Little, Brown reprinted in the ARCs for Towers Falling. When I met Jillian from ADL, we had already booked Jewell for fall school visits, so this seemed like an invaluable opportunity to connect her with teachers and librarians participating in No Place for Hate®. The conversation at our co-sponsored event was electric and powerful and resonated strongly with the educators. It was a truly memorable night for all involved, and we hope to facilitate more of these conversations with educators, activists, and authors. Even if you don’t have an ADL Education Director in your community to moderate an event, I think the Book of the Month resources and guides could provide the basis for an interesting panel discussion, educators’ book club or other programming event. Personally, I’m going to start including the Books That Matter resources in my presentations to preservice teachers who come in from the University of Texas to hear about the importance of building inclusive class libraries and how books can be used to build empathy and engage kids in SEL discussions in the classroom.
BUILDING A DISPLAY: Our newest collaboration with ADL just went up today. Jillian Bontke from ADL Austin will be helping us curate a monthly display at the front of our BookKids section highlighting books and discussion topics that matter. Customers can browse recommendation cards and grab a button or a bumper sticker to spread the message.
ENGAGING WITH STAFF: To provide context for our new display, Jillian Bontke is coming to a staff meeting next week to talk about how ADL uses books to fight hate and build positive, inclusive environments. We’re going to follow that with an open forum for booksellers to brainstorm and share ideas about what BookPeople should be doing to do the same. I’m looking forward to the discussion. The most valuable partnerships, after all, are the ones that inspire us to keep doing better. For more information about No Place for Hate in your region check out: http://www.adl.org/npfh/
I’d love to hear about any other community partners with resources that stores have found valuable!