ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Many school libraries during the coronavirus pandemic are like the one at Mountain View Elementary School (MVES): empty and more quiet than usual. Without students, the shelves are left untouched. However, according to Marian McCullough, a talent development teacher at the school, the library isn’t only void of students.
“Often times, schools with diverse populations, and even without them, don’t expose kids to a lot of diverse literature just because it costs so much to give kids the diverse experience you’re asking for," McCullough said.
Thanks to a $15,000 grant, a group of teachers started Colts Care, a virtual book study focusing on diversity and inclusion.
“Right now, we’re really looking at ways to have anti-racist and culturally-responsive teaching literature in the hands of our teachers so that way they are able to provide their students with more learning opportunities. With that, we’re also looking at other authors to come in and read their work with us here at Mountain View," teacher Chiaka Chucks said.
MVES is the second largest elementary school in Albemarle County and one of the most diverse in the district. More than half of its students identify as non-white.
“These books are all representing diverse perspectives, whether its diversity in creativity and express, whether its diversity in race, whether its diversity in perspective, it represents so many different ways that students can tackle themselves being part of school and being valued in school," McCullough said.
Two books will be shared and discussed each month over Zoom. Students and their families can join in from home and participate in discussions and activities after each reading. Although the program is starting at Mountain View, any child in the district can join in.
Chucks said she hopes the initiative gives students confidence to speak up and become leaders in their community.
“We’re seen many social injustices here throughout our country that students are listening, they’re learning, they’re seeing what’s going on around them, so this project will really allow us to not shy away from these conversations," Chucks said.
The first session is set to get underway at 6 p.m. Thursday, October 22.
The initiative is expected to continue throughout the rest of the school year.