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Meet the Family Diversifying Bookshelves Around the Country

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By Taylor Pittman
Black Voices

Troubled by the lack of diversity in children’s books and the literacy gap involving kids around the country, a mom and her two kids have set out to send 50 diverse children’s books to each of the 50 states.

Charnaie Gordon is the mind behind Here Wee Read, a platform that highlights the importance of representation by recommending books for kids that include main characters of color; focus on various races, cultures and religions; and teach kids about subjects like immigration, voting and more.

For her latest project, 50 States 50 Books, she’s sending these kinds of books to groups in every state with the help of her two children, Madison, 6, and Barrington, who is almost 5.

The Connecticut family chooses an organization or institution ― a school, a library, a literary-focused group, a nonprofit or something similar ― in every state to receive the books. Gordon also hopes to donate brand-new books to children’s hospitals.

While Gordon and her kids head up the project, many other people are helping. Gordon told HuffPost she hasn’t had to buy new books thanks to several book donations, mostly from people who bought titles from Here Wee Read’s Amazon Wish List, which is divided into sections like “Muslim-Themed Books,” “Adoption & Foster Care Books” and “Civil Rights & Activist Books.”

Gordon has received donations from children’s book authors, and on Monday, she posted on Instagram that Hachette Book Group has plans to donate 800 books to her family’s cause. Madison and Barrington also won a Kid Kindness Grant from the nonprofit Kindness Grows Here to help with the project.

The siblings chip in with one of their favorite parts of the project: adding an ink stamp to every book that designates it as a donation from 50 States 50 Books. They also help collect the titles and prepare them for delivery.

“Our book mail days are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” Gordon said. “Their job is to use the key to open [our P.O. box] up. They’re in charge.”

When Gordon started planning the project this past summer, she set a goal of completing the donations by the end of 2020. Now, she figures her family will be able to get it done at some point next year.

“This has just turned into much more than I expected,” she said.