Today we are launching a new series here at Ditto Kids - a series where we highlight community projects and their leaders who inspire us and are doing work which centers anti-racism, marginalized representation, and supporting or uplifting BIPOC communities.
To kick off this series we are highlighting a community project which has brought us so much inspiration and joy in the past year -- Little Diverse Free Libraries.
Little Diverse Free Libraries (LDFL) was started by Sarah Kamya in June of 2020. It began with an idea that came to Sarah while on a walk through her hometown. She walked past all of these little free libraries and realized that this shared community space could be a vehicle for much needed representation. With this mission Sarah set out to raise funds to get books written by Black authors into little free libraries.
Within a few hours of her sharing this mission on Instagram the Little Free Diverse Library project was born. Within the first month the project took off with people across the country donating and purchasing books for Sarah to distribute. In the first month Sarah raised over $13,000 and invested this into Black-owned bookstores while distributing over 700 books across 50 states!
Sarah has now inspired others to start their own little free diverse libraries with outposts in about 15 states thus far.
We've been following along with Sarah's project from early on and were thrilled when she said yes to being our first guest for our community project series.
We asked Sarah a few questions and wanted to share them with you!
Name: Sarah Kamya
Occupation: Elementary School Guidance Counselor
Location: New York City (P.S. 191 - Riverside School for Makers and Artists)
I went to Syracuse University for my Bachelors in Child and Family Studies and then attended New York University for my Masters in Counseling and Guidance in Schools K-12.
Ditto Kids Team -- When did you decide to start LFDL?:
Sarah Kamya: In the wake of George Floyd's murder and the surge of the Black Lives Matter protests (officially June 3, 2020)
DKT -- How long did it take from inception to fruition?:
SK: Truly in 1 hour of me posting on Instagram the idea to raise funds to get books written by Black authors into little free libraries I had raised $1,000 and overnight everything exploded. When Eva Chen (Author of Juno Valentine, A is for Awesome, and more ) shared my wishlist, a few days later over 50 boxes of books arrived and the books did not stop. I probably received 30-70 books a day for 3 weeks straight. I began distributing books throughout my town in the first weekend (June 8th) and started with 10 books for 10 different little free libraries.
DKT -- How many states are you in?:
SK: I have sent books to all 50 states! There are about 15 little free diverse libraries that have been installed throughout the United States that I know of.
DKT -- What has been your favorite part of the project?:
SK: My favorite part of the project is connecting with people who find diverse books in libraries, specifically books that myself or others have placed. Whether it's in Texas, Toronto, California, or Massachusetts, these books have spread far and wide and it so great to see individuals and families connecting with these diverse texts. It has been especially fun to connect with diverse families, whose children may have not seen themselves represented in a book before.
DKT -- What is your hope for LFDL throughout the years to come?:
SK: My hope is to get more Little Free Diverse Libraries to schools in low-income and minority communities. I want Black and brown students to be able to have access to books that empower them and make them feel important. I believe every student deserves to see themselves represented in literature. I hope that LFDL can continue to shine a spotlight on the incredible BIPOC authors that are working so hard to tell their stories and the stories of many others like them have faced. And at the end of the day, I hope LFDL can continue to amplify and empower diverse voices, one book at a time.
DKT--What is your favorite book? :
SK: This may be the hardest question ever! Most recently, my favorite book has been I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown and Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. My favorite children's book is Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli
DKT -- One thing you wish everyone knew about diversity? :
SK: I wish everyone knew the importance of seeing a diverse representation of characters in books, in movies, and in the media. I strongly believe if you can't see it, you can't be it. And for my Black and brown kids out there, you belong, you matter, and you are enough.
Thank you so much Sarah for chatting with us!
And keep an eye out for a really fun and exciting project between LFDL and Ditto Kids which will happen in the spring with our second issue!
Go check out Sarahs project on the Little Free Diverse Libraries Instagram account here and if you would like to donate or contribute to Sarah's work you can find out how to do that through her instagram highlights.