Since then, as promised, Donalyn has used Facebook as a platform to give away at least one book, that celebrates the diversity of our human family, each and every day. It's a remarkable pledge, both in its generosity and the sheer logistics of it. The idea of posting a drawing every day, selecting a winner every day AND mailing the right book to the right person every single day (all while traveling the world being The Book Whisperer) totally blows my mind. But as she has posted many times, it's a commitment she and her husband, Don, made together and it is as partners that they tackle it. Needless to say, I'm both in awe of and inspired by Donalyn.
Which is why, a little while later, I decided to do the same thing, but on a smaller scale. In the spirit of Donalyn's #bookaday give away, I started giving away a book every Monday. Like Donalyn, I use Facebook as the platform for these donations. And also, like Donalyn, I use the definition of diversity shared by We Need Diverse Books to select the titles I share through these giveaways.
That said, beyond striving to be just like Donalyn Miller when I grow up, my reasons for wanting to give away books that celebrate inclusivity and help readers understand experiences outside their own are deeply personal. Like a lot of you, I would imagine, I'm profoundly concerned about the devolution of public discourse in our world. I worry about our, often very public, rush to condemn and even threaten those who disagree with us. I am frightened by the effect of confirmation bias on our ability to evaluate information sources. And I'm made very weary by how often identity politics renders us incapable of even hearing out the other side. We are, as a species, growing more and more divided and at a time in our history when, arguably, we need each other more than ever. Finally, I'm deeply distressed by how all of this is reflected in the words and actions of our leaders. And I'll be honest, there are times when all of that makes me feel pretty helpless.
So... what's a librarian to do?
Of course, there's no one right answer to that question. In many ways, we have to keep doing what we've always done: provide safe spaces for every one, but especially our most marginalized and vulnerable, be defenders of truth, facts and freedom of speech, teach others how to evaluate sources for bias and relevance, and make sure everyone who walks through the door can see themselves, while also learning about others, through our spaces, collections and programming. For me, giving away these books is part of that work. Like, Donalyn, I'm hoping to harness the power of books to help foster empathy and, hopefully, build bridges of understanding between people. Yes, the world may appear to be getting darker and darker each day, but there's nothing to stop me from spreading light. So I choose hope over cynicism. I choose inclusivity over isolationism. I choose light over dark. I choose to shine.
To that end, I've also been working on a way to compile a list of all the books I'm giving away. But more than just a list, I wanted to create an interactive bibliography of sorts: a place where readers of all stripes could not only learn about books that reflect our diverse world, but also share what those books mean to them in the form of brief reviews. I'll update this space every week as I add a new book to the list of those I've given away... but YOU (or your students) can add your reviews ANYTIME by a) going to one of the slides featuring a book you love and then b) clicking the link marked "Share your <3 for this book!" You can add as many reviews as you like, show other reviewers some love by clicking the heart next to their name or add comments.
How might you use this type of interactive bibliography with your students? First, note that you could make an interactive bibliography like this one for any subject, author or content you wish, as a way to both spread the word about great books in your library AND build a community of readers. Your students and teachers could EASILY be the reviewers to discuss the books you've culled together to share. Here are a few ideas for sharing them when you're ready:
- Embed them in your library webpage or within your Destiny homepage.
- Catalog them using a tool like Web2Marc so that they pop up within your LMS when students or teachers complete a search for whatever subject headings you put into the Marc record.
- Share them in library news letters or PLC meetings.
- Make them part of your students' independent reading program.
- Etc, so on.
And for those of you who are interested in making your own interactive bibliographies, here are the tools I used to do it:
- Canva: I created the background image for each slide with Canva - which is a FREE tool that I love, love, love!
- Google Slides: Google slides doesn't have to be used just for presentations! Simply publish your presentation to the web and it can be embedded on any webpage! Or download it as a PDF and then create a flipping book (like this one) using a tool like FlipsnackEDU.
- Flipgrid: Now that Flipgrid offers free Flipgrid One accounts to educators, it's become my go tool for curating both educator and student voice. It's so easy and slick. I <3 the final products so much!
Finally, a word about the books I've selected. I've read all the books I've given away (so far!).
and with the exception of two that were given to me as gifts from friends, with permission to give them away when I was finished reading them, I purchase them all myself and do not accept arcs from publishers in exchange for endorsing the book. Like Donalyn, I've chosen to make this commitment to both the authors and artists who work to create these books and to the children, teens and adults who will eventually read them, because the need to do so feels urgent to me. Still, I want to be clear: this post isn't about me encouraging others to give books away. This is about the importance of using the pillars of our work to create a more empathetic world. These give aways, thanks to Donalyn, are just one way that I feel empowered to spread light in an increasingly dark world. I DO, however, encourage you to find away that you can do the same and then, shine on!