A Kaslo organization has donated more than 500 books to local libraries promoting diversity and inclusion.
SLIDE (Support for Learning Inclusivity, Diversity and Empathy) was created in June 2020 to speak up against racism and injustice.
The group sought opportunities to find positive ways to make an impact in their own rural community and has since raised over $10,000 through community fundraising and grants. All of the money raised have been used to buy books for the local public and school libraries, and through partnerships with the BC Association of Community Response Network, SLIDE has been able to apply for additional grants.
“Initially, we reached out to the schools and public library and asked how best we could support them in our aim to raise awareness in our community,” SLIDE spokesperson Sarah Evans said in a news release.
Research has shown that exposure to diversity from early on can have an impact on how children learn to accept and develop empathy, she said.
“We decided that a way to do that was to increase the number of books that represent diverse characters from diverse authors, that are available to students from very early in their education.”
J.V. Humphries Elementary-Secondary and Jewett Elementary have both been added new books to their school libraries this fall, along with the Kaslo Public Library.
SLIDE’s focus has been to find books that represent diverse characters and are written by diverse authors. Diversities represented in the books SLIDE purchases include racial, sexual, gender, ability, family, economic, citizenship/immigration status, age, and neurodiversity. They also have made it their priority to purchase books from local, independent bookstores, with the majority of books coming from Otter Books in Nelson.
Another member of SLIDE, Delanie Smith, says her involvement with the group is personal. Her 15-year-old son is Black.
“It is incredibly isolating for him being such a minority in our community,” she says. “That’s part of my motivation for increasing access to diverse literature, even if it’s not diverse people. He feels alone a lot of the time.”
Smith says the group was formed in response to the global outcry over the murder of George Floyd and ongoing systemic racism.
“It feels like a lot of people want to be part of doing something,” she says. “It can feel like you’re a bit helpless in wanting to make a change. This felt like a tangible way to do something for us and people feel like they can do something, even if it’s just a tiny bit of difference by donating to our organization.”
Smith said they received grants from the Community Response Network, Hospital Auxiliary Society of Kaslo, Kootenay Savings, and Community Fund of North Kootenay Lake, in addition to their own fundraising.
The success of the initiative has generated another collaboration with the community’s Holiday Hamper program, organized through the North Kootenay Community Services Food Hub. SLIDE is seeking ongoing donations this month to be able to include a book for each child in the hampers. The recommended amount is $18, and donations can be made directly through e-transfer to [email protected].
J.V. Humphries students have a long history of fundraising themselves for the annual Holiday Hampers, principal Victoria McAllister said. This year marks the 30th year that students have set up a table in the downtown to collect donations. Last year they raised $5,000 for the community and this year’s organizing group, Student Parliament, hopes to beat that record. In addition, J.V. Humphries’ food class students will make a variety of pastries to add to the hampers.