Libraries involve young adults in readings that address the effects of racism

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Libraries will engage more than 5,000 underserved young adults in readings and discussion that aim to dig deep into and ultimate discard the deeply held, and often unconscious, beliefs created by racism.

The American Library Association has received a $1.1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). The result of that will be the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Great Stories Club (TRHT GSC).  The club will connect ALA’s successful Great Stories Club literary programming model to the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation efforts.

The Great Stories Club is a library-led book club model that gives underserved youth facing significant challenges the opportunity to read, reflect, and share ideas on topics that resonate with them.

Created in 2006 by ALA, the Great Stories Club has reached more than 700 libraries in 49 states and more than 30,000 young adults (ages 13 to 21). Great Stories Club programs are conducted by libraries working in partnership with juvenile justice facilities, alternative schools, residential treatment facilities, group homes, and other community service organizations.

For this new initiative, up to six librarians will be selected to serve on the TRHT GSC Implementation Team and will help plan, develop and deliver print, web-based and in-person programming support and learning experiences for TRHT GSC grantees.

The project will seek to bridge embedded divides and generate the will, capacities and resources required for achieving greater equity and healing, particularly in the lives of young adults facing personal challenges such as detention, incarceration, addiction, academic probation, poverty and homelessness.

The TRHT Great Stories Club will be administered by ALA’s Public Programs Office in partnership with the ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS).  Programming will take place in 125 libraries and community partner organizations starting in 2018. Application information will be announced in the coming months.

Launched by the Kellogg Foundation in 2016, TRHT is a comprehensive, national and community-based process to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change, and to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism.

ALA is one of the 100 voluntary National Partner Organizations, along with 44 scholars, that participated in the 2016 TRHT design phase.

“Equity, diversity and inclusion are core to our beliefs at ALA, and we are proud to continue our engagement with the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation efforts,” said ALA President Jim Neal. “Linking this critical movement with ALA’s long-recognized work in literary outreach for underserved youth will be a powerful opportunity for all involved.”

The success of the Great Stories Club model can be seen from the eyes of one Here is a quote from a librarian who took part in a recent GSC sequence that addressed the issue of teen violence and suicide

“It compelled us to take on a book club theme that library staff ordinarily shy away from,” said  Jonathan Sandbach of the Jacksonville (Florida) Public Library about the club’s ”Structures of Suffering” theme.

Librarians have been reaching out to their communities to tackle a variety of social issues through reading and discussion.

In an article in Programming Librarian, the website of the ALA’s Public Programming Office, Paula Willey, librarian at the Parkville Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library in Towson, Maryland, wrote of one effort. She wrote that her branch started doing monthly outreach visits at the Charles Hickey School at the Maryland Juvenile Detention Center for Boys.

She wrote, “We do regular outreach to all the other schools in our area, we thought; why not bring library-led reading and discussion to this one, too?”

She wrote that the library was able to bring authors into the detention center to speak with the boys housed there. The teens read “Ball Don’t Lie” to prepare for a visit with author Matt de la Peña and asked penetrating questions about the book’s characters.

“Bringing authors into Hickey School has had a huge impact,” she wrote. “Why are author visits such a big deal to these kids? The extent to which this facility feels and is isolated cannot be overstated. The facility is on a huge piece of land, at a high elevation. The school and residence units are surrounded by double rows of high chain-link fences with rolls of razor wire on top and on the ground. No other structures are visible from anywhere on campus. The only sounds are birds, wind and gunfire from the National Guard firing range on the next ridge. For some students, visits from family are few and far between. And while approximately two-thirds of the boys at CHS spend less than two weeks at the facility, about one-third of them will spend several months there.”

Discussing books, she wrote, provided a rare opportunity to show them they are not forgotten and “we expect to see them at the library soon.”