Local Public School Counselor Seeds ‘Little Libraries’ With Children’s Books Highlighting Black Characters and Authors

Sarah Kamya, a counselor at PS 191 on West 61st Street, has started an ambitious project that’s already paying off.

Kamya, who grew up in Massachusetts and has been back there during the Covid crisis, is buying books and distributing them to the Little Libraries that people set up around towns where people can leave and take books. The project is called Little Free Diverse Libraries.

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The mission for this project started when I was on one of my daily walks through my town of Arlington, Massachusetts. This @littlefreelibrary is right by my house and I always stop to check out the books. After the recent events, 400 years of systemic and institutional racism, and thinking back on being the only black girl in my school, I thought to myself, how great it would be to fill this library up with more diverse books?! My town is made up of 83.6% white people and 2.63% African-Americans, and while it is not my job to educate the white folk in this community I believe in the power of books and I believe that books have the power to start conversations and create change. I also hope that if little black and brown children stumble across one of these Little Free Libraries they will finally be able to see themselves represented and celebrated in literature. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the books purchased from @mahoganybooks and can’t wait to fill these libraries up across the country! 📚 let’s get reading.

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“Growing up in a predominantly White town, Kamya longed for books that represented students of color and of different backgrounds,” according to Boston.com, which covered her project last weekend. “She always felt as though she wasn’t depicted as much as her peers.”

Within days, Kamya’s efforts had raised thousands of dollars, and generated hundreds of book donations. She spread the word on Instagram.

“As of Saturday, Kamya has already raised over $9,000 in just 11 days. She’s purchased over 300 books from Black-owned bookstores, written by Black authors, and received about 250 through Amazon Wish List, to disperse to Little Free Libraries around Arlington and beyond,” Boston.com reported.

Here’s the mission statement on the project’s Amazon page:

“We believe that black lives matter. Black stories matter. Black history matters. Black childhood matters. Black joy matters. Black voices matter. We believe that children of color deserve to see themselves represented in ordinary stories in which a character’s race is not their defining characteristic. We believe in revising the canon of children’s literature to feature authors of color and texts that portray a diverse range of experiences. The books purchased here will fill Little Free Libraries in Arlington, MA, and other communities to amplify and empower black voices”

Kamya is also raising money to also distribute more books in the New York City area. People can donate money or buy books at the Amazon wishlist linked here.

Kamya even appeared on Live With Kelly & Ryan.

NEWS | 8 comments | permalink
    1. Ellen says:

      Bravo! What a great idea and great work. Hope it takes off here as well. Thank you for doing this!!

    2. Ken Hittel says:

      I’ve purchased some of the recommended books, to be distributed “in the New York City area” — but where do I send them?

      • Sarah says:

        Thank you for all of the support. I am working to set up a Little Free Library outside the school. If you go on the Little Free Website you can check out the MAP and find a library near you. While there are not many registered in the city, having little libraries outside of schools could be a great way to spread this mission!

    3. Pico's mom says:

      FINALLY things are starting to change, after the courage and sacrifices that have been demonstrated. This is gratifying.

    4. Martha says:

      Kamya, as a former JCC volunteer literacy tutor at PS 191, this is totally brilliant. So commendable. The children in the hood deserve to have these resources as well. Are you planning to set up a fund for the school?

      • Sandy says:

        “The children in the hood?” Please recognize that is extremely offensive.

        I agree this is an excellent and inclusive Idea.

    5. hm says:

      How can I contribute books? I live on the UWS and am privileged to have multiple copies of books that would be wonderful additions, such as books by Ezra Jack Keats, who was a dear friend and a trailblazer. Is there a drop-off location, or are you only seeking funds?

    6. Jenny says:

      Books are such a wonderful way to learn about African American history and make people more empathetic and also enrich their lives. Sadly, so much terrible oppression could have changed long ago if people read more. The death of George Floyd was a terrible lesson for so many Americans, but no surprise to those who know this nation”s sad history….I’m not sure if a course in African American literature would change policing or societ, but I think it’s a start. There are so many amazing African American authors who have touched my life deeply…this project is great but another place that benefits from thoughtful book donations are books through bars and other organizations that send books to prisons. It is documented that Books in prisons cuts down violence rate as much as 70%, which is good for people who are incarcerated as well as the people who work with them…