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Meaningful Touches from a Distance

by Dr. Emily Ball Cicchini, Executive Director

I hope that you are facing this new year with a renewed sense of hope, tempered with caution for the obstacles that remain in place.  That’s how I’m approaching 2021 with BookSpring.  And I’m grateful that you’re here.

We are limiting the office to 2 people at a time, and on-site volunteering to long time and trusted volunteers as well as curbside pick-ups and drop offs.  However, we’ve come up with even more digital volunteering opportunities, such as Video Read Alouds on YouTube.  Print books continue to be distributed through Delivered custom partnerships and Direct mail to families at home.  Meanwhile, we continue to explore the Digital delivery of browser-based and downloadable pdf books through Weekly Themes.  

A heartening stat is that we’ve distributed over 100,000 print books to children since the start of COVID, and another 100,000 page views or downloads of open access digital books, including Weekly Themes and landing page links to providers StoryWeaver and Unite for Literacy.  Keeping these resources open means that families, librarians, and teachers can use this material for free with only limited technological requirements.  Building from the Open Access (OA) and Open Education Resources (OER) movements, BookSpring should continue to explore this method to distribute high quality digital books and motivational resources as we continue to distribute print books through schools, community groups, and medical clinics.

We continue to look for ways to engage authentically with the children and families we serve, through small group video conferences, through text messages, emails, and social media.  We are thinking about the overall number of “touches” we are making to families, partners, and donors, and collecting many testimonials in return in the form of photos, posts, and shares.  We know this does not and should not replace face-to-face contact in the long run, but we are seeking ways that these interactions can be more appropriate, useful, and meaningful to others.

The work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is deep.  I am trying to make braver choices that support Racial Equity in our work at BookSpring.  One thing I’m embracing (and also wrestling with) is the first step to dismantling systematic racism is acknowledging that the children’s book publishing industry suffers from the same bias towards White Privilege as the rest of American culture.  Next, we all have to keep working on diversity and injustice – it won’t just suddenly end.  This is why I’m such a proponent of StoryWeaver, featuring world cultures and languages, more so than many commercial children’s books.  In case you don’t know, we don’t often distribute children’s classics, but we do sometimes get them in donations, and then have to decide if we’re going to pass on to kids or release to recyclers.  That is a critical choice that our staff—particularly Clare, Shannon, and Katie—must make many times over on a daily basis. I trust their decisions, but we discuss the issue often and our open dialogue together should continue.  You are always invited.  Many perspectives are relevant to the growing awareness and hopeful healing, but here is a quick read on racism in children’s lit from a scholarly view: https://time.com/4876091/racism-childrens-books-kids-lit/  

BIG QUESTIONS:  How do you think the mission and programs of BookSpring will be changed once the have emerged post-COVID-19?  Will schools return to the pre-COVID-19 routines?  What should we try to return to the way it was before?  What kind of new opportunities should be watching for to make room for in the future that has the potential to better build young readers?  As always, please feel free to reach out to me at emilybc@bookspring.org or pick up the phone and call (512) 472 1791 x 106 if you want to share your thoughts!

Meaningful Touches from a Distance
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Meaningful Touches from a Distance

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