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Groups team up to put diverse books in Westerville school libraries

The Many Voices: Diverse Classroom Library Project is underway in the Westerville City School District in an effort to supply K-12 teachers with books to expand their classroom libraries. Colleen Moidu, Executive Director of the Westerville Education Foundation, said the project is a partnership between the Foundation, Westerville Partners for Education and Westerville district educators.

Many Voices will supply district teachers with books to expand their classroom libraries with the aim of promoting discussions about racial and social diversity and providing students access to books representative of contemporary families and inclusive of culture, history and diverse perspectives, according to Moidu. She said the enthusiasm she has seen for the project from partnering organizations, educators and the community demonstrates recognition of the value of diverse experiences and perspectives.

“As we seek to understand one another, books with diverse protagonists can serve as ‘windows and mirrors’ to view others as well as ourselves in a new way,” she said.

Moidu said a quote from Kwame Alexander, author of “The Undefeated,” describes the value of the project the best, saying, “Books are about me understanding me, but books are also about me understanding you.”

Lee Rutherford, a Blendon Middle School sixth-grade English language-arts teacher, is a member of the Many Voices committee. “This helps educators in the district build more inclusive classroom libraries, working to support educators in Westerville,” she said. “What I love is it connects educators in the district that do similar work. It’s really about working in community. It’s building community in classrooms by having diverse books, building experiences from people who may or may not look like them.”

Ultimately, Many Voices connects teachers with others who have similar projects she said.

“It’s about the whole community. The name Many Voices really fits. It’s about the students but it’s about working in community with one another,” she said.

Rutherford said she thinks Blendon has an inclusive library.

“The challenge is those books are shared with 700 kids,” she said. “It’s the reality we need more books. We need the books in classrooms to receive more circulation.”

Rutherford said some people think Many Voices is about race. “It’s all spaces of intersectionality,” she said. “It’s really working in community. I love that it’s working in community to be inclusive so our classrooms represent our students, their lives and their families. We all need each other and connect.”

Moidu said the goal is to raise $40,000, and $10,000 has already been committed, including $5,000 from the Sunrise Rotary Foundation. “We truly believe that this is an effort that aligns with our Rotary International’s Areas of Focus: Peace Building and Education and Literacy,” said Tom Strasburg, Sunrise Rotary president. Moidu said each classroom library will cost between $500 and $800.

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