Literary Activism

Action Item: Diverse Classroom Libraries in MD & NY

Leila Roy

Staff Writer

After a lengthy stint as a children's bookseller, Leila Roy took a step sideways into the library world. There, she does the same thing she did as a bookseller—matching people with stories in any and all formats, whether print, audio, film, comic, or some newfangled hybrid—but doesn't have to deal with changing the tape on the cash register. She lives in Maine with her husband, where she runs her small-town library and occasionally tries to rescue wildlife from her cat, who is a murderer. In addition to talking books at her long-running blog, Bookshelves of Doom, she's a weekly columnist at Kirkus Reviews. Blog: Bookshelves of Doom Twitter: @bkshelvesofdoom

Late last year, librarian Angie Manfredi took to Twitter with a challenge: How many classrooms in need could the book community fund over the course of one day? Other librarians and bloggers and authors and industry folk joined in, and it quickly became apparent that there were a whole lot of people out there just itching to do some good, whether by spreading the word or opening their wallets or both.

On Inauguration Day, we (we being Kelly Jensen and Leila Roy) put together a list of classrooms in need, with a focus on classrooms that served immigrant, refugee, and ESL communities. With the help of Book Twitter, every single one of those classrooms was fully funded by the end of the day. Since then, every Friday, we’ve continued to highlight and advocate for similar classrooms, and again and again Book Twitter has come through.

Now, we’re bringing our Fund ‘Em Fridays to you, the Book Riot Community. Please boost, donate if you can, or even pick out a classroom to personally champion!

And now, our classrooms of the week! Both classrooms are trying to build class libraries full of inclusive books, and both serve largely low-income populations.

Neither project needs a huge amount of money—due to gift matching, each one needs less than $300 to be fully funded. Can we make it happen?

Diversity Matters, in Beltsville, MD:

My students will be able to listen to read-alouds about multicultural characters and those read alouds will help us to discuss differences. Multicultural Children’s Literature helps children delve deep into multiculturalism and the global community. Books like “The Name Jar” will help children become more aware of emotions, feelings, and the world around them.Students will be able to identify with characters from the stories and use those connections to discuss the topic of tolerance and appreciation for other cultures. The global community books will help us gain background knowledge on things that happen in communities around the world on the topics of transportation, schools, homes, clothing, birthdays and foods. The children will be able to refer to the World Map to find where they come from and see their country’s flag! This is very important work for us!

Empowering Students with Social Justice Stories!, in Queens, NY

Our school is located in one of the most diverse cities in our nation, yet many of our students still wonder, “Why are there no characters like me in books?” We are requesting several books that reflect a variety of cultures and books that teach social justice issues to create a library for our second and third graders.


Sometimes, the sheer enormity of all of the wrongs we have to right, the injustices we have to fight, the work we have to do… it can feel overwhelming. Funding a single classroom might feel like a drop in the bucket. But a single drop of water causes ripples, and a single classroom ultimately serves a larger community. Small actions make change. Join us.