MLK Day read-in celebrates stories of diversity, tolerance

Jan 15, 2017 Issues: Equality & Opportunity

The Bellingham Herald: MLK Day read-in celebrates stories of diversity, tolerance 

By Robert Mittendorf 

Hear stories describing the struggle for racial equality and civil rights, along with books that offer messages of peace and tolerance, at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Read-In for children and teens at Village Books in Fairhaven.

Western Washington University students from the Center for Service Learning are assisting with the free event, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday in the downstairs Readings Gallery at the bookstore, 1200 11th St. Many of the volunteer readers are international students.

“The theme is tolerance and diversity and the civil rights movement,” said Claire McElroy-Chesson, children’s programming director at Village Books. “All the books have that theme running through them.”

WWU students will read stories selected by Sylvia Tag, a WWU librarian. In addition, children can bring their own books on the topic to share, McElroy-Chesson said. It’s OK to stay for the whole event or just drop in for a story or two.

Tag said she chose works by Kadir Nelson, who is known for his books on African American culture and history, and stories about Coretta Scott King, widow of the slain civil rights leader. But many of her selections have more subtle themes, such as a book of world religions and “Enemy Pie,” whose author Derek Munson lives in Bellingham.

“One I really like is ‘Down the Road,’ by Alice Schertle,” Tag said. “ It’s just a book about a family. It doesn’t hit you on the head. It’s such a great book because it’s unpredictable. It’s an African American family, but none of that matters. It’s just about peace.”

McElroy-Chesson’s favorite story is President Barack Obama’s 2010 picture book “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.”

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, will read a story at about 11:30 a.m. for this, the 13th read-in.

There also will be crafts and coloring activities, such as a bookmark to keep, McElroy-Chesson said.

One featured story will be the new picture book, “The Journey,” Francesca Sanna’s tale of a Middle Eastern refugee family that is fleeing conflict in their home country. They leave with the possessions they can put in their car and arrive at their new home with nothing.

“That’s definitely a staff favorite,” McElroy-Chesson said. “It’s a gorgeous book and it’s so important right now.”