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Children’s Book Bank: The Impact of Representation

Posted by Sagarika Ravishankar

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When we talk about collective impact at SVP, it’s always a rigorous and thoughtful conversation that we engaged in with our Investees. How many children are we affecting? How much leverage can our money, time and influence spread? What is our impact on the community?

While those questions are at the foundation of our work, it’s also important to see how our Investees touch lives. Dani Swope, Executive Director of the Children’s Book Bank (CBB), shared a story of how books can bring communities and cultures to life for children, and give them the representation they need to make reading relatable.

On the street, it’s often a simple greeting that makes you feel welcome and a part of the community. In books it’s usually the characters—their names, the way they look, where they live, and what they do—that draw you in and make you feel like you belong.

For many of the children we serve, this opportunity to see themselves in books is rare. Beyond not having books in the home, children of color from low-income families are less likely to be reflected in the books they do encounter because of the lack of multicultural books available. Only 10% of children’s books in the past 18 years contain multicultural content.

Regardless of this limited availability of multicultural books, for the past three years, The CBB has helped Latino children read stories like theirs. In fact, every year, CBB gives the families enrolled in Juntos Aprendemos, a past SVP Investee,  bundles of books—in both English and Spanish.

For many families, these are the only books they have in their homes—a critical and amazing resource for families who are eager to establish daily reading routines.

Marisol is a young mother with a five-year-old daughter. For Marisol, these books meant even more. As Marisol explained, “My parents didn’t read to us when we were children. We didn’t have any books at home. In our village, very few parents read with their children. Now that we have these beautiful books, I read with my daughter every night at bedtime, and she has fallen in love with books! Her favorite is ¡Nos Vamos a Mexico! She has memorized the story, and we talk about the pictures together. Now she knows about the village where her own grandmother lives and where I grew up. She likes to pretend she is in the story, too, and tells me, ‘Mommy, this is me’ when she sees a little girl that looks like her.”

This is just one story like many at CBB, and reminds us of the incredible impact we have in our community. We invest and partner with key nonprofit players who are touching lives like Marisol’s on a daily basis; empowering them to learn, grow and thrive in their communities and in their lives.

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