In our project we are organizing the library at the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute (MOI), a nonprofit that offers free homework help and writing workshops to St. Paul public schools students. Most of the students that MOI assists are students of color from immigrant families, so a large part of the project is to buy new books that have protagonists of color and relate to the students’ lived experiences.
The first step to organize their library was to make a list of the books that MOI already owns. I took pictures of the book shelves at MOI and on the first day of our Winter Break I started going through the pictures and cataloging the books. Two weeks and 1,000 titles later I was done with my cataloging marathon.
Meanwhile, Emily was researching and creating a list of books that we would buy. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, finding early readers books that have non-white main characters has been a challenge. As an Educational Studies and Psychology major, Emily has come in contact with a lot of research that describes the importance of having access to books in which the characters represent you. It is empowering and can also help increase the interest in reading, improving literacy and success in school. Therefore, the difficulty in finding the books is depressing. But with research and digging Emily has found many relevant titles, we have acquired 50 new books to MOI library and the book buying frenzy has only began.
This week we will be spending more time at MOI, now physically organizing the books. We will code color them according to grade level, add stickers that identify them as MOI property and shift the books around. Soon, MOI will have a better organized library, more accessible to the students and with a more diverse book collection. We are excited about how the project is progressing.