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Literary Activism

Action Item: Lego Storystarter in Kansas & Read for Refugees

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!

This week, we’re switching things up a bit. As usual, we’ve picked out a classroom project to fund, but today, we’d also like to direct you towards a reading initiative geared towards raising money for refugees.

First up, our classroom! The children in this classroom are recent immigrants and refugees new to the district, many of whom are working on learning English now, and “have never known life outside a refugee camp.” It, as most of the classrooms we highlight, serves a population that is considered “highest poverty,” in that 65+% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Their teacher is looking to buy Lego Storystarter kits to help them with their ESL studies, and the campaign only has three days left to be funded. Can we help them out?:

Listening, Speaking, Writing, and Reading with Legos! in Wichita, KS:

Learning a new language can be hard and intimidating. The StoryStarter Lego kits allows the students to create a scene and then be able to refer to that scene to communicate their ideas. They will continue with the scene to then write a story.

The high level of communication in a classroom that is using StoryStarter is the vocabulary rich environment that a ELL student needs.

StoryStarter will help strengthen vocabulary and it also encourages students to speak in front of others. They will be able to use their model as a reference while speaking.

Next up, we have the Read for Refugees campaign!

A group of authors put this one together with Go Jane Give to support RefugePoint, a nonprofit that works to “identify and protect refugees who have fallen through the cracks of humanitarian assistance and have no other options for survival, in particular women, children, and urban refugees.”

It runs through the end of March, and there are a variety of ways to get involved. Click on through for more information, take a look at the list of authors involved, donate if you can, spread the word, and keep in mind that if the campaign raises $50,000 by March 20, an anonymous donor will kick in another $10,000!


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.