The East Carolina University EC Scholars program organized a fundraiser titled “Books that Embrace Race,” which began June 30 and lasts until the end of July to donate to their community partners.
Tiana Washington, an EC Scholar and senior neuroscience major said as a Black woman herself, growing up she did not see many characters in books as children of color or children with a disability.
EC Scholars wanted to show support to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, but as a group they did not want to just post something on their social media, according to Washington. She said they wanted to come up with a way to show support and make an impact.
“Children growing up and reading books where they specifically say this person is a person of color or just talks about race opens up the avenue to have positive representation early on to see yourself as more than a stereotype; to see yourself as that doctor, teacher, that superhero,” Washington said.
Victoria Chan, an EC Scholar and senior public health and psychology double major, said it is important for children to see themselves as the main character and the hero in a story.
“I think that children's books are a great way to invite conversations about race and how it plays into our development and our identity as children growing up in America,” Chan said.
The goal for the fundraiser is to raise $5,000 to buy books to donate to the children of EC Scholars community partners, according to Chan. The partners include the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Plain, Little Free Libraries in the Greenville area and The ECU Community School.
Some of the books take a more direct approach to the topic of racism, according to Chan.
“Like 'A Kid’s Book About Racism' some of these are more direct to initiating conversations about racism in America, but there are definitely a lot of other ones that are a little bit easier to start the conversation,” Chan said.
Chan said there are over 100 books on the list right now that the EC Scholars want to donate to children that range from a preschool to a twelfth grade reading level.
“When they see books that represent kids that look like them with cultures that align with their culture they can get really excited and come out of their shell and develop their own personality as well as their own creativity at the same time,” Chan said.
Naimi Pothiwala, an EC Scholar and junior public health major, said the Honors College Roundtable chose to start the fundraiser to expose children to books that discuss race and that celebrates diversity to improve race relations in Pitt County.
Pothiwala said people can share their support by spreading the word about the fundraiser on social media or to family and friends. She said it is important to expose children in your own family to literature and entertainment that introduces them to diverse representations.
"Give them a more accurate representation of the diverse world we live in through the books they are exposed to," Pothiwala said.
The Honors College will continue to work together in other ways to discuss race relations issues and to make an impact in the community, Pothiwala said. She said they will start a book club on July 9 on “The New Jim Crow.”
More information on the fundraiser can be found on the fundraiser’s GoFundMe page.