Author Launches '600 Books of Hope' Donation Initiative for Uvalde Students | News Bites

Read about a book donation project for students in Uvalde, TX; a plea to Congress from the education community; News Literacy Project's educator and student of the year; and IMLS research on public libraries during the pandemic in this edition of News Bites.

A book donation project for students in Uvalde, TX, has exceeded original expectations, education organizations call on Congress to pass gun safety laws, News Literacy Project names educator and student of the year, and IMLS releases research on public libraries during the pandemic in this edition of News Bites.

In the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy, Mexican American author, filmmaker, and youth literacy activist e.E. Charlton-Trujillo launched 600 Books of Hope.

The idea was to collect 600 new books from kid lit creators and publishers to give to the kids of Robb Elementary School. Quickly, the idea expanded to add a goal of 1,300 books for the other elementary schools in Uvalde. Now, the project has gotten even bigger, collecting books for middle grade and high school students. Creators and publishers have stepped with support, including donations from Candlewick Press, Chronicle Books, Cameron Kids-Abrams, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster. The goal is for every student in Uvalde to get a book.

Charlton-Trujillo was inspired to action when they read about children’s librarian Martha Carreon, who held story time in the El Progreso Memorial Library in Uvalde the day after the shooting. The library director said he kept the library open because it is a safe place, a refuge, and an escape.

“We all know that, because we write or publish the books for children who seek out that refuge, that safe place, that escape in libraries,” Charlton-Trujillo wrote on their website. “We are the architects of story, of imagination, of humor, heart, and hope. And that is why I feel this is a moment where we can meet tragedy and heartache with compassion, kindness, and story.

“600 Books of Hope is an opportunity for us as a community of artists and writers, along with the companies that publish us, to embrace the children of Robb Elementary School. My goal is to collect a minimum of 600 books of hope which would ensure that every child there would receive one book. One tangible thing they can take with them that might shine a ray of promise in their unbearable darkness.…

“We can’t undo the tragedy of what has happened at Robb Elementary School and to the town of Uvalde. But we can come together as a community of artists and publishers and offer them the best parts of what we do. We can share our words, our stories, our images, and, by doing so, shine some literary light into the darkness.”

The books will be distributed through a partnership with El Progreso Memorial Library and Family Service, a San Antonio nonprofit. Trujillo plans to have regional authors and illustrators at an in-person event for the book distribution.

While authors, illustrators, and publishers have come through with donations, anyone can donate books to the initiative. Those interested can fill out a form to receive more information about the initiative.

K-12 organizations ask Congress to pass gun laws

Seventeen organizations representing the K-12 community—including the National Education Association, School Superintendents Association, National Association of School Psychologists, American Federation of School Administrators, and National PTA— signed a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to “swiftly pass legislation that will address the senseless epidemic of gun violence in this country.”

The letter read:

“Schools and educators alone cannot bear the full burden of addressing the public health crisis of gun violence. The answer to stopping gun violence in our schools is not to arm our educators or to focus solely on better addressing the mental health crisis. As a nation, we must take a hard look at the various societal factors that are contributing to our high rates of gun violence and suicide and commit to meaningful action.

“Specifically, we call on Congress to pass gun-violence prevention legislation that would:

• Prevent access to dangerous weapons by those deemed at risk of hurting themselves or others

• Expand background checks for all gun purchasers

• Increase investments for rigorous gun-violence prevention research

“Undoubtedly, increasing access to comprehensive mental and behavioral health services, both in communities and in schools, is of paramount importance. In the school setting, access to comprehensive mental and behavioral health services (and professionals like school psychologists, school counselors, and school social workers) is a key component of a comprehensive approach to school safety.

“To this end, we call on Congress to provide significant and targeted funding to existing funding streams rather than create new programs. Collectively, the Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Grant Program, the School Based Mental Health Services Grant, and the STOP School Violence Act represent three existing funding streams that support increased access to comprehensive school mental health services and professionals, and support of evidence-based violence prevention strategies.

“We also urge Congress to continue its bipartisan, bicameral work to address the youth mental health crisis by building the pipeline of mental health personnel in schools, expanding access to Medicaid reimbursable mental and behavioral health services in schools, and expanding collaboration and coordination between the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services in their work with schools and school-based providers.

“Our students deserve to go to school and thrive in communities where they are safe. To achieve this goal, we need laws that address the gun-violence epidemic and ensure our children and educators can learn and work without constant fear for their lives”


Jamie Gregory is News Literacy Project's Educator of the Year

The News Literacy Project (NLP) announced its 2022 educator and student of the year award winners.

The honorees are “news literacy change-makers who have distinguished themselves in their commitment to news literacy in their classrooms, in their professions, and in their daily lives.”

The Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year is Jamie Gregory, librarian and journalism teacher at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, SC.

Gregory has made news literacy an essential part of her journalism classes and also has worked with colleagues from all disciplines to help them integrate the subject into their lessons in relevant and meaningful ways.

“I feel the news literacy education I’ve provided for my students has been transformative for them,” Gregory said in a statement. “Students are able to have more complex and in-depth conversations about the types of news they are consuming.”

The Gwen Ifill Student of the Year award went to Alysa Baltimore, a junior at Station Camp High School in Gallatin, TN. Baltimore said becoming more news-literate allowed her to more thoroughly research mass incarceration, an issue important to her. Just by using the NLP's Checkology lessons, she found  that “[o]n the surface, Checkology may be viewed as simple lessons on finding quality articles, but it ultimately led me to developing a passion for equality, equity, and justice,” she said in a statement.

IMLS releases research on public libraries and the pandemic

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) released two pieces of research on libraries and the pandemic.

The first, a two-page infographic titled “ How Public Libraries Adapted to Serve Their Communities at the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” highlights strategies public libraries used to ensure patrons had access to library services as the pandemic forced closures in communities around the country.

Findings from March through May 2020 include:

  • More than 90 percent of public libraries in the analysis group continued to provide services despite their buildings being closed.
  • Nearly two-thirds of libraries increased the electronic materials available to the public and offered virtual live programming to patrons during those first three months.

IMLS also released the latest research brief on the State Library Administrative Agencies (SLAA) Survey, titled “ State Library Administrative Agency Adaptations in the Initial Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Ongoing Trends,” which chronicles how SLAAs formed new partnerships with other government departments and agencies to provide services to libraries. The brief also describes how SLAAs adapted to new restrictions related to on-site work.

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