Family kits promote discussions about race, culture
Every day in the Westbank and Laura libraries there are certain things you can count on seeing. A child pulling books from the shelves, looking for the right one? To verify. An adult staring at the catalog computer, looking for titles that sound appealing? To verify. A carer in the kids’ zone, juggling an armful of life’s necessities — cell phone, diaper bag, a favorite irreplaceable love — while chasing toddlers and balancing a leaning pile of library books? To verify. To verify. To verify.
Recently, the library outreach team came up with a clever idea to help all these patrons get what they want a little easier. The idea, which recently came to fruition, is as follows: family discussion kits.
Community Librarian Cristen Darcus explained, “Family Kits are organized bags of themed books for children of almost all ages.
She showed off one of the kits – a cute cloth bag filled with a mix of children’s picture books, middle-level chapter books, children’s non-fiction books and young adult books.
“We tried to include a little something for everyone,” Darcus said.
While the kits contain books for different family members, depending on their age and literacy level, a common theme connects them all. The three kits currently available, launched the week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all focus on race and culture.
Each kit also contains a sample discussion guide designed to help families explore the books they read.
Referring to the Libraries Outreach Team, Darcus said, “We wanted to find a way to help families have conversations about difficult topics, and we thought we could build on the successful concept of “ bundle of books” that we launched in the summer of 2020.”
Customers who have enjoyed book bundles know they can request books around a certain theme – anything they or their children want to explore. The library has received requests for lots on every topic you can imagine, from overcoming shyness to learning plumbing to diving deep into the world of mushrooms.
For busy parents, book bundles and family discussion kits are a way to bring home an organized collection of books without having to spend a lot of time searching for the right titles.
“It seems like there’s never enough time when you’re a busy parent,” Darcus said. She pointed out that no matter how busy a family is, “some things are too important not to talk about with your kids. We hope that these kits will be useful in these discussions. »
Darcus said since the kits launched last month, the community has responded enthusiastically.
“All kits are currently being checked and the feedback we have received so far is positive. Two of them are so popular that we had to create duplicate kits.
Library boss Lori Kugler recently borrowed a kit to learn about other cultures and introduce books with children of other races to her 6-year-old son.
“The books have been a valuable resource for reinforcing teaching and messages that are important to me and that I would like my son to learn,” she said. She added that “books are a great way to experience a life different from the one we live.”
Another library patron, Christina Harvey, moved to Austin from London where she and her daughter had an international group of friends. Harvey feels it’s important to expose his daughter, Greta, to as much diversity as possible.
She said that while it can be difficult to teach toddlers about different cultures, these kits are “a great starting point to have those conversations.”
At first, she worried that her daughter, who just turned 3, might be too young for the kits. But once she took the kit home, she found that “we were both surprised by the books we enjoyed. I learn about other cultures alongside him.
A fourth Family Chat Kit is expected to launch soon.
“We will soon be expanding our collection of family chat kits to other areas,” Darcus said, “so be on the lookout for more information in future library newsletters.”
Family discussion kits can be requested on the library website: westbanklibrary.com/family-discussion-kits.
For adults interested in further exploring the issues and history of race in America, the library has also created book club kits. These kits contain at least eight copies of the book, suggested discussion questions and guidelines, and if available, a copy of the film. Learn more at westbanklibrary.com/racial-awareness-book-club-kits.
Maureen Turner Carey is the Public Service and Public Relations Librarian at the Westbank Community Library District.