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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How Book People Can Help Ferguson Youth

It's the day before Thanksgiving. As I sat down in my local library this morning to collect my thoughts and write an upbeat Thanksgiving-themed post, I found myself distracted by images from the news I'd seen last night and this morning. Images of protestors in Ferguson and in cities nationwide, including here in my own city of Boston, where 45 protestors were arrested last night. Instead of writing, I began scrolling through news feeds on my phone. As often happens during times of national crisis, natural disasters, or other all-consuming events we hear about in the news, I felt uninspired to write an upbeat blog post, and also utterly powerless. I am dismayed by this week's grand jury decision. But what can someone like me do to help? How and where can I direct my energy at a time like this?

Then I remembered I work with words, and people in the book world -- particularly in the kidlit community -- find creative modes of activism in times like these.

So I shifted my search terms and got different news, different images, and some fresh avenues of activism and hope. I'm now giving thanks today for librarians -- especially for the Ferguson Public Library -- and for kidlit activists, whether they are authors, librarians, booksellers, or readers. In the links I'm sharing below, I hope you'll see why. And if you too are feeling powerless and hopeless in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision, please remember:

1. Reading is a powerful act of empathy.
2. Libraries are sanctuaries.
3. Kids in Ferguson and elsewhere right now need stories of hope for the future.
4. Every voice matters.

A round-up of links, and things you can do:

Here is an inspiring article published on Salon.com yesterday about the Ferguson Public Library, which has stayed open even when other public places, including schools, have been cancelled during protests. An ad-hoc school was created there, and teachers volunteered to teach classes at the library. Teen events are being held. A book drive, run in conjunction with Powells Books, has generated an outpouring of donations, particularly books for young adults that focus on social activism, peace, community building, and healing from trauma.

The Ferguson Public Library is accepting donations through PayPal on its home page. I donated; it's a fast and easy way to support the library's ongoing efforts to stay open, when it is safe to do so, and provide a sanctuary for the community, particularly for young people.

Author Joelle Charbonneau started an initiative called Hope Through Stories, authors uniting in support of students in Ferguson, MO. If you're a children's book author, get in touch with Joelle about sending a signed copy of your book to the library. As Joelle puts it, "Let's show the students of Ferguson that there is hope in each and every story. They still have their story to write."

You can follow @FergusonLibrary on Twitter and learn more about what they're doing, and read an interview with director Scott Bonner.

You can buy a book online from Left Bank Books in Saint Louis, Missouri; their Angel Tree Book Drive hopes to get donations of 300 books, one for each student in Ferguson's neediest elementary school.  (Thanks YA author Fiona Paul for this news, and the link!)

You can follow #KidLit4Justice on Twitter.

Do you know of other thinks or other ways people in the book world can help out? Please share them!


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