App State social work students bring diverse books to WCS classrooms – Watauga Democrat

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Kaitlyn Sessoms sells baked goods in the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences to raise money for Lit 4 Change.

Kaitlyn Sessoms sells baked goods in the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences to raise money for Lit 4 Change.
WATAUGA — A group of students in App State’s Social Work program are bringing books to k-3 classrooms in Watauga County Schools to better reflect the diverse student population.
Juan Rivera, one of the students in the Social Work Practice with Groups class, said that he met with Yolanda Adams, WCS’s family resource coordinator, and the two talked about the need for culturally diverse books in school.
“The same day, my daughter came back from school so happy because they were talking about the Taínos, which are the original population of Puerto Rico, and I realized that there was a real need for school students, diverse students, to be represented in literature,” Rivera said.
Rivera’s group agreed to embark on the project for their major class project of the semester and they created Lit 4 Change to raise money to bring a selection of diverse books for the reading-aged school years in Watauga County, kindergarten through third grade.
Since teachers provide most of the supplies for their classrooms, Rivera said raising money to supply these books will hopefully be helpful for teachers. So far, Rivera said the group has raised enough money to purchase books for Hardin Park, Blowing Rock and Valle Crucis elementary schools and are working to finish raising funds to provide books for the rest of the county’s elementary schools.
Working with Adams, Rivera and his group decided on three books to purchase for the classrooms.
“Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!” by Maria Dismondy tells the story of Gabe, the new kid at school who does not speak English, and how kids can have kindness and empathy for one another.
“Mango, Abuela and Me” by Meg Medina shares the story of a little girl who must bridge a language-barrier when her Spanish-speaking grandmother comes to visit, showing how they grow closer.
“Sulwe,” by Lupita Nyong’o, tells the story of a young girl who wishes for her dark skin to be lighter. The book discusses beauty and colorism and teaches kids about self-esteem and loving oneself.
Social workers work with the community and work with creating change, according to Rivera, and the project to bring diverse literary options to schools is one way for social work students to engage their studies and create a positive impact in the local community.
“The younger we start, the better they can understand other cultures and different people from different backgrounds, and I think that is going to help the community to move forward into a better future,” Rivera said.
WCS superintendent, Scott Elliot, said of the project, “We always want our students to see themselves in the subjects and materials they use at school. These books will help our youngest students of color see themselves represented in literature as they are gaining their early and essential literacy skills.”
The members of Lit 4 Change include Juan Rivera, Tammy Treat, Adriana Soriano Nunez, Aruna Ross, Heather Sabourin, Kaitlyn Sessoms, Kiana Young, Lucy Wilson, Trevor Steward-Derquit and Diana Tousley.
To support Lit 4 Change, donations can be sent to or on Facebook at
Marisa Mecke is a Report for America corps member for Mountain Times Publications. Report for America is a national nonprofit service program which places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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