Young, Black and Lit is a non-profit organization that provides free books to children in low-income neighborhoods. This organization was founded in 2018 by Derrick and Krenice Ramsey. The Ramsey’s are book lovers who are enthusiastic about providing children with images they can identify with. One day Krenice was out looking for books for her nieces.
She went to one of the largest bookstores in the local area, and her search did not turn up any books with images of little black girls. This process was very upsetting and frustrating to her. This turn of events motivated her to create an Amazon wish list, asking for 50 books with images of little black girls. She donated the books to a local community center in Evanston. Krenice’s husband, Derrick, challenged her to find 50 more books with images of little black boys. She was successful in her pursuit but realized an issue finding high-quality books with actual storylines.
The percentage of children’s books that feature black images is significantly less than the general population. The number of children’s books that include black children has increased over the years; there is still a long way to go. When children don’t see images that look like them, they could feel misrepresented or excluded from the classroom curriculum. One day there will be more books for children and teens that reflect diverse perspectives and experiences within the black community.
Young, Black, and Lit was created to help bridge the gap of supplying early access of books to children in low-income neighborhoods. Krenice looks for books with black images for children from Pre-K to 8th grade.
The books celebrate black children, people, and culture. They are always searching for new, high-quality books covering topics including self-esteem, loving your hair, sci-fi, and celebrating civil rights heroes. The donated books are delivered to various schools around the Chicagoland area. The monthly program supplies books to teachers who teach students in low-income communities.
Before partnering with Young, Black, and Lit, the teachers struggled to find books that meet the education curriculum. Many teachers noted a lack of resources and under-resourced libraries for their students. They find this partnership rewarding, exciting and look forward to getting more books. The Young, Black, and Lit team believe representation matters. Krenice believes in the “Mirror and Window” theory.
“It is important for children to have access to books that serve as mirrors – reflecting their own culture – and books that serve as windows – allowing views into someone else’s experiences.” When our black children see and read books with black images, they feel more confident and know they matter. She wants the kids to know they are valued, along with their families. The books give them a glimpse into the lives of other black children, and they gain a better understanding of others. This also allows them to have different experiences and learn about other cultures.
During the summer of 2019, Young, Black, and Lit hosted several book fairs. They noticed how excited the kids were about seeing themselves on the book covers. They also became quickly attached to the stories inside. This organization has donated over 30,000 books since 2018. They started with donating 50 books per month, then 500 books per month; now, they average over 1,000 books per month. Hopefully, once things improve, they hope to have more book fairs in the future.
In addition to collaborating with the local schools, they also partner with the Steans Family Foundation. This foundation supplies books to the North Lawndale area to various Pre-K centers. They know how important it is to educate babies and contribute to their healthy development. The Young, Black, and Lit organization also partners with “Reach out and Read” – Illinois chapter to supply books to pediatrician offices.
This organization knows the importance of supplying books to babies five years and younger. The doctors are very excited at the opportunity to get more books reflecting the images of their patients. The Young, Black, and Lit team is looking to grow and make the most impact in the community. Their goal is to get a “Book-Mobile” to distribute the books directly to the children in the neighborhood.
They are excited about continuing the organization’s mission and donating thousands of books. They get the books directly from the publishers with the help of donated funds. The goal is to expand the monthly giving program and the annual lit program. They are looking to hire staff to help distribute more books in the future. You can help them continue their mission by donating money or getting the word out about this great organization. Secondly, the teachers can sign up and get the books into the hands of their students. For more information check out, Home | Young, Black & Lit (youngblackandlit.org).