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Read in Color Initiative Brings New Stories to Denver

Nadirah LuQman loves to read. Sci-fi, non-fiction stories, and even some mystery novels will scratch her itch, but most of all, she said, “I like children’s books.” 

The problem is that she has hardly any time to stop by the library and get herself, and her two kids, books to read.

“With the way that transportation and gas is these days, it’s hard to get there,” she said. “By the time I get off work, the libraries are closed.” 

LuQman and her family have lived in Park Hill since 2018. Luckily for the LuQman family, there is a new solution for their problem. Little Free Library and BookGive are two non profit organizations that are delivering books to those who may not otherwise have access to them.

According to Melissa Monforti, the founder of BookGive, literacy is a basic human right.

“Everyone should have access to as many books as possible. Our mission is to deliver as many free books to as many locations as we can,” she said.

And they do – BookGive has programs set up in prisons, homeless shelters, schools, living facilities, and even laundromats. And their newest location for a Little Free Library? The Park Hill Station apartments, perfect for LuQman and her family.

Last Thursday, BookGive hosted a party for the residents of Park Hill Station to unveil their new library. There was free food, shaved ice, and a book for every child who attended. 

Aside from the party and the impact that books make on the community, this Little Free Library has an even larger meaning. BIPOC children are often underrepresented in the books, TV shows, and movies they consume compared to white children, and this library is the first of many that will be dedicated to BookGive’s Read in Color initiative, which aims to bring more diverse books into communities. 

“If you have never seen yourself in a book, because you have only seen books that have white children’s faces in it, you’re less likely to connect with it,” Monforti said. “You’re more likely to connect when you see a kid with a disability if you have a disability, or if you see a family that looks like your family.”

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, a professor of education at Ohio State University, describes this phenomenon with the analogy of “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” Dr. Bishop argues that books can be windows into other people’s experiences, which is vital to telling and reading stories. Equally as critical, books can also be mirrors into a child’s own experience and help them to both form their own identity and better understand others. Without this, children can miss out on a critical part of their education.

Nyasha Williams read her book, I Affirm Me, aloud to party attendees. I Affirm Me gives 26 different affirmations for young Black children, one for each letter of the alphabet. Williams’ goal is for children to be able to read these over and over, and instill in each of them that they are loved and worthy. Williams’ slogan is “writing to change the narrative.” As a Black woman, she wants to make sure young Black girls can see themselves in her books. 

This type of empowerment has the potential to change Park Hill and beyond because, according to Monforti, when one community is elevated in education or knowledge, it can bring up an entire city.

“The more stories we read that are different from our own story, the more we will understand each other and have a greater understanding of what other people go through who are not like you,” she said.

The LuQmans, who plan on using the library to its fullest extent, are one of many families who will benefit from their new Little Free Library, and BookGive plans on installing nine more libraries with the Read in Color initiative around Denver. 

“It’s great to have access here, close by. And with a variety of books to share with the kids, because they love it,” LuQman said. “I read to them every night.”

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