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Kalamazoo School District launches effort to diversify classroom libraries

Woman handing books to kids
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Angela Justice with the Kalamazoo Public School Distrct passing out books to second graders at Woordward School for Technology and Research

Kalamazoo Public Schools wants every student to see someone who looks like them in a book. That's why it's adding books to school classrooms to reflect the diversity of its student body.

It launched the initiative Tuesday at Woodward School for Technology and Research, where school and district officials hope the effort will engage more students in reading.

KPS is starting with just second and third grade classes for now.

Seventeen schools in the district will get books for second and third graders by April, and KPS plans to eventually spread this initiative to every class in elementary, middle and high school in the district.

Angela Justice, the English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Library Services Coordinator with KPS, says it’s important that young students of color read books with characters that are like them.

“So often you can pick up a book about a train or an animal or a person that doesn’t look like you, but it’s rare that you can pick up a book where a child looks like you,” Justice said.

Brian Zack, a second grade teacher at Woodward, echoed Justice’s sentiments about the power of reading about characters who look like you. He shared the children’s enthusiasm over the new books.

“The new library is great. It’s great to have awesome new books that the kids are really excited about,” Zack said.

Michael Rice, Superintendent of KPS, says the district spent about a year and a half putting the booklist together.

Some of the new books feature famous black athletes. Others focus on children and families from Latin American countries. More classrooms will be getting new books soon.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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