When putting together a library collection many librarians strive to collect a variety of materials full of the latest and greatest books. In a youth collection this also means collecting books to suit all reading levels and building an inclusive collection that is reflective of everyone in the library community. Building an inclusive collection of materials is important in all library collections, but it is especially important in a youth collection because a child who does not see themselves in the world of literature may be discouraged enough not to read. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find inclusive books and that’s when it’s helpful to build a partnership that will improve your collection.
Rochester Hills Public Library was approached by two high school Muslim girls named Mena and Zena Nasiri, who were always avid readers, but grew up longing to see themselves in literature. They decided to make a difference by holding a book drive and collecting more books with female Muslim characters. They then began donating these books to local media centers and libraries, then eventually branched into their own non-profit called Girls of the Crescent.
According to their website, The Girls of the Crescent is funded through donations of money or the books they list on their website. The funds are managed by the Community Foundation of Rochester of Greater Rochester, a federally approved 501(c)(3). They have received donations from many authors and organizations that believe in their cause. Word of their nonprofit has spread and they have now donated books to over 12 school districts, including some outside of the United States and 9 public libraries.
Mena and Zena contacted the Rochester Hills Public Library’s youth department head, Betsy Raczkowski, in 2018, “They brought in a box of books – probably 30-40 titles – and asked if they could donate them to the library as part of the mission of their non-profit, Girls of the Crescent, to spread awareness about representation in children’s literature. We went through the box and over half of what they wanted to donate was already circulating in our youth collections, so they kept those to distribute to other locations that needed them. What we did take (12 or 13 titles) were from smaller publishing houses.” The girls also helped us connect and set up an author visit with Saadia Faruqi, author of the “Meet Yasmin” series. “Girls of the Crescent is a part of this larger movement to help others understand why representation matters. What is impressive and noteworthy about these young women is that they chose to champion this movement on a grassroots level (as teenagers!) and they chose to use their local public library as a connection to the world at large. They are the epitome of what librarians work hard to encourage every day – an informed, empowered public,” says Raczkowski.
Any library or community wishing to work with or assist the “Girls of the Crescent,” with their mission can find their contact information on their website.