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Rainbow ‘little libraries’ planted in Napa during Pride month
Education

Rainbow ‘little libraries’ planted in Napa during Pride month

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More than 500 brand-new ways to share diverse, anti-racist, and LGBTQ inclusive messages with readers have been distributed — for free — across Napa Valley.

To kick off LGBTQ Pride Month, Rainbow Action Network and First 5 Napa Network rolled out their Rainbow Little Libraries project over the first weekend in June.

Those libraries — from American Canyon to Calistoga — were seeded with some 500 new children’s books about race, gender, and diversity.

“This project is a work of love for members” of Rainbow Action Network and First 5 Napa Network, said to Anne Sutkowi-Hemstreet. She’s the director of Rainbow Action Network and “network weaver” of the First 5 Napa Network.

“During a year of so much hurt and struggle, First 5 Napa Network members wanted to use a human-centered design approach to make a positive impact on our community,” Sutkowi-Hemstreet said.

“We listened to parents and caregivers and tried out ideas with their families regarding how we can best support them in having conversations about race, racism, and anti-racism with their children,” she said.

Napa's Rainbow Action Network and First 5 Napa Network just rolled out a series of new Rainbow Little Libraries. They were created to share diverse, anti-racist and LGBTQ-inclusive messages with young readers, families and supporters.

“Parents — including myself — are receiving the message that we need to be talking with our young kids about race and racism, but we don’t always know how to start or what to say. Hopefully, this program will help those families that want to do the right thing but don’t know how.”

The project also includes 10 new “Rainbow Little Libraries” painted with diversity and inclusion-themed art by local children and teens. In addition, more Rainbow Little Library books were distributed to 10 other participating Little Free Libraries that are already in operation.

Decorated with a wide range of colors and images, each library has been installed in neighborhoods that previously did not have Little Free Libraries.

Agencies or organizations that are hosting Rainbow Free Libraries include: Cope Family Center, ParentsCan, UpValley Family Centers, City of Napa’s Las Flores Community Center, Hearts and Hands Preschool, and Seasons of Wonder Preschool.

“I wanted to host a Rainbow Library because a big part of our philosophy is to build community,” said Simone Findlay, owner of Seasons of Wonder preschool. “The fact that it’s a diverse library full of wonderful children’s books made it all the better.”

Findlay and her partner Jason Pleasants installed their Rainbow Library at the preschool on Hunt Street on Friday, June 4.

By the next Monday, the books were already being used, she said. “We already have huge buy-in from families and parents. I would recommend it to everyone, especially a preschool.”

There was no cost to Findlay or the preschool for the library, books, and program materials.

She’s particularly delighted at the book selection. “They’re great,” she said. Many of the books were already on her wish list for the school.

“I’m just excited to see where it goes and how we’re able to expand it and build community and get some feedback from the families in our program,” said Findlay.

The project was funded by First 5 Napa County and the budget for this phase was $13,500, said Sutkowi-Hemstreet.

Rainbow Little Libraries “provide children in our community with books that reflect diverse races, cultures, genders, and family structures and give grown-ups equipment to help them have conversations about race, gender, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) inclusion, and standing up against unfairness with their children,” said the news release.

Every book includes tips in English and Spanish for parents/caregivers to have conversations with children around these topics.

And for future Rainbow Action Network events, supporters even built a Rainbow Little Library On-The-Go.

Most Little Free Libraries don’t require books to be returned, but in this case, organizers are hoping they will be, so more people can take turns reading the books.

Rainbow Little Libraries are part of a larger project, Rainbow Family League, that aims to build a league of anti-racist and inclusive families in Napa County, said the news release.

In addition to the Rainbow Little Libraries, Rainbow Action Network and First 5 Napa Network will soon be registering families to participate in a six-month “season” of monthly book/activity practice with children and opportunities for grown-up level work around race and gender biases with fellow parents/caregivers.

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You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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