Woman donates over 600 books showing diversity to Tri-Cities libraries

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — You’ve seen the posts on Facebook: it’s someone’s birthday but instead of presents they ask for charitable donations.

That’s why Tri-Cities native Valari Parmenter Mejia held a diverse kids book drive for area schools and libraries.

“We were looking for a way to support the community during a lot of the social unrest that we’re seeing in the country,” Mejia said. “One way that we thought that we could contribute is by trying to get more books that feature more diverse characters and storylines.”

These books include people of color and people with learning disabilities.

Over the past decade, the push to show inclusivity and equity in society helped create movies like Black Panther. Same-sex marriage became legal and a foreign film won Best Picture at the Oscars. In 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives saw a record-breaking number of elected women.

Books and stories help teach kids — and adults — how to treat themselves and others.

For Vista Elementary School librarian Michelle Melville, these donations mean actual change in children’s lives.

“I love when I’m reading a book and a student sees themselves in that book and you literally see that student sit up a little taller,” Melville said. “It’s just a proud moment of connection.”

The donation also gives Melville the ability to provide students with books on requested topics, like indigenous peoples.

By the end of the book drive, Mejia’s post garnered 624 donated books from 46 donors in four countries. Fifty-five libraries around the Tri-Cities received books, 45 of which were elementary schools.

“The whole purpose is to make sure the kids can identify themselves in these books and also foster a more inclusive and compassionate culture,” Mejia said.

If you’re interested in donating books, go to theconsciouskid.org.