“It is essential for us to think deeply about helping our students see themselves as part of a family, a school community, and in ever-growing circles to encompass the larger world — and at the same time, we completely honor who they are as individuals.”
In February, Foote librarian Jennifer Friedman addressed parents, faculty, and staff at a Foote Families for DEIJ meeting, emphasizing the important role that the library plays in honoring themes of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging.
The Foote Library’s collection of fiction and nonfiction — the most diverse, said one parent, that they had ever seen in any library — has resources for every age, but that’s not what makes the collection so noteworthy. The library staff devotes care and attention to finding books that will not only resonate with vast audiences, but will reflect vast audiences.
Stories like Gibberish, Tia Fortuna’s New Home, and The Door of No Return address the concept of what it is like for someone to suddenly be immersed in a strange, new land while introducing readers to a world of new experiences. At the same time, the collection does not sacrifice visual quality. The beautifully illustrated A Boy Named Isamu and The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey appeal to readers (and viewers) of almost any age, and the school’s collection of graphic memoirs and graphic novels is extremely popular with student readers.
“The strength of these books lies not just in the beautiful imagery and eloquent language, but in the sense of empathy that is fostered,” Jennifer said. “These are human stories, and if that story touches another human in that moment, it works.”
Some books in the library take on more pointed topics for older readers: How to Be a Young Antiracist, Seen and Unseen and When Can We Go Back to America? (the latter two about the Japanese internment camp experiences). The librarians also work to rid the collection of works that are dated or inappropriate by today’s standards, replacing them with modern perspectives on familiar topics.
“At one time we had a lot of books in which Native American people were not represented appropriately,” Jennifer said. This was particularly problematic when approaching the topic of Thanksgiving. Now the library can point to books like Keepunumuk: Weeåchumun’s Thanksgiving Story for a more authentic representation of indigenous peoples.
Jennifer emphasized that in addition to looking for books that appreciate other cultures, the librarians also offer materials that appropriately address topics like gender and identity, counting True You: A Gender Journey and If You’re a Kid Like Gavin: The True Story of a Young Trans Activist number among the collection.
The librarians use a variety of resources, like We Need Diverse Books, Walter Awards, and #FReadom Fighters to identify books that they feel would be important additions to the Foote collection. It is a thoughtful and collaborative process that they hope will filter into the community.
“As librarians, we aren’t always the loudest voices in the room, but we put these books in the hands of teachers, parents and students and we know that the messages come through,” she said.
Jennifer said she feels an urgency to opening up avenues to explore new — or continuing — issues that are important to Foote students. Waiting for a convenient time to take on certain topics can have severe consequences, particularly with school districts across the country initiating book bans, she explained.
“For example, LGBTQ+ books are under siege right now, and it’s not OK,” she said. “Here students can find their voice and feel totally comfortable expressing themselves.”
Students looking for many of these titles (and more) can find them in the E section — that’s right, E for “everyone.”
“We want everyone to feel seen. Loud voice or small voice, we’re making sure they’re all heard,” she continued.
Below is a partial list of DEIJB books available in the Foote Library:
The Big Book of Belonging by Yuval Zommer
The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey by Jason Chin
Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky by Kim Jihyun
Madani’s Best Game by Fran Pintadera
Nigel and the Moon by Antwan Eady
A Boy Named Isamu by James Yang
Berry Song by Michaela Goode
Tia Fortuna’s New Home: A Jewish Cuban Journey by Ruth Behar
Gibberish by Young Vo
Meet Yasmin! By Saadia Faruqi
The Nguyen Kids: The Secret of the Jade Bangle by Linda Trinh
Miles Lewis: King of the Ice by Kelly Starling Lyons
Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party by Saadia Faruqi and Ani Bushry
JoJo Makoons: The Used-to-be Best Friend by Dan Quigley
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee
Tumble by Celia C. Pérez
A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser
Wildoak by C.C. Harrington
The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson
Aviva vs. the Dybbuk by Mari Lowe
The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander
How to Be a (Young) Antiracist by Ibram x. Kendi and Nic Stone
Seen and Unseen by Elizabeth Partridge
When Can We Go Back to America? by Susan H. Kamei
Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi
Keepunumuk: Weeåchumun’s Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry and Alexis Bunten
True You: A Gender Journey by Gwen Agna and Shelley Rotner
Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth by Michelle Duster and Laura Freeman
Lola Out Loud by Jennifer Torres
If You’re a Kid Like Gavin by Gavin Grimm and Kyle Lukoff
A Life of Service: The Story of Tammy Duckworth by Christina Soontornvat
All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel
Curve & Flow: An Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams by Andrea J. Loney
Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped This Country by Kelly Yang
A Song for the Unsung: Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the 1963 March on Washington by Carole Boston Weatherford and Rob Sanders
The Tryout: Making the Squad Means Risking It All by Christina Soontornvat and Joanna Cacao
Maybe an Artist by Liz Montague
Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile
School Trip by Jerry Craft
Hope is an Arrow: The Story of Lebanese American Poet Kahlil Gibran by Cory McCarthy