Congratulations to River Oaks Elementary! This incredible school will be our “Next Up” school for 2017! This school would have been awarded the next grant if we had the funds, so we will provide 100% of all donations during the month of November to them to fund their project, Dangerously Diverse: Promoting a School Culture of Acceptance. This project will, in the words of Librarian Tamra Snell, “provide books that can help students feel welcome, accepted, and understood.” This is an extremely important part of education at River Oaks Elementary as they serve a large at-risk immigrant and refugee population.
River Oaks Elementary works regularly with families from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nigeria. Many of these families are just integrating into society after living in extremely difficult circumstance and need all the support the school can offer. The students from these families “need to feel a sense of belonging, safety, and acceptance.” Novels that have characters and scenarios that mirror the lives of these children can help them find belonging, safety, and acceptance, but are in scarce supply. Ms. Snell “will consult award lists, such as the American Arab Book Award, Tomas Rivera Book Award, Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award” to “identify recommended book titles to address diversity, immigration, and culture of various groups.”
Ms. Snell also plans to purchase Spanish language books to focus on “the home-school connection of reading with children” in Spanish speaking homes. This commitment is an example of how River Oaks Elementary is dedicated to working to strengthen the community it serves through education, acceptance, and understanding. Donations will also be used to purchase books that feature strong female characters as, “some of the stories of these women may reflect similar life experiences of our population, so reading about these women’s lives may provide a sense of hope and inspire our young girls to pursue their passions.”