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Black Literature Book Drive makes sure Black kids grow up reading happy stories, too

GOLF MANOR, Ohio — Arin Gentry didn’t have many books by Black authors when she was growing up. She had even fewer that were happy stories, fewer still that reflected the lives of people she knew.

“If I did read something by Black authors or just about Black life, it was usually always about the Civil Rights movement or slavery,” she said Friday. “Nothing ever that was really positive or shared Black stories that were in a positive manner.”

Now, sitting in her son’s bedroom, she's stacked up more than 600 children’s books from Black authors writing about Black characters like the ones she missed as a child. They’re all from community donations to her Black Literature Book Drive, which gives Black students books that represent them in ways that are positive and true-to-life.

“I just think it’s so important when we are thinking about developing young people and their minds and just building them up and building confidence in them,” Gentry said.

So far, her 2021 fundraiser has raised nearly $8,000 — four times what she collected last summer. She uses the money to donate books to local CPS teachers and nonprofit organizations that work with children.

Olivia McKinney, who teaches juniors at Withrow University High School, used some of the books from the last drive in her English curriculum.

“If students continue to see Black people in the same representations, what are the consequences of that?” McKinney asked. “Black people, we are not a monolith. We are not just slavery, struggle and deficits. There is so much more to being a Black person.”

Gentry agrees, and she’s hoping this time around she can raise more money, purchase even more books and distribute them this spring. The last part might be tricky, given the ongoing pandemic. If anyone in the community has an idea, she said, she’d love to hear it.

The drive ends March 14. Anyone wishing to donate can do so here.

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