Anti-racism: Book Clubs and Beyond

Area of Interest


Level of Experience


Target Audience

Public Librarians, School Librarians, Youth Services

Session Description 

Advancing anti-racist work takes purpose, commitment, and practice. Librarians of color will share their experiences and outcomes in leading anti-racist initiatives for children and teens through book club programming at the library and through outreach. This presentation discusses how libraries can offer book clubs and related programming that helps families, children and teens develop skills to respectfully engage in dialogue about race and equity that ultimately create welcoming spaces in which youth can build and celebrate their identities and sense of self.Book clubs centered on books written by authors of marginalized or under-represented groups help to meaningfully connect with diverse communities served by the library and address social justice issues that impact the daily lives of children and teens. The resulting discussions that take place during the book clubs are an opportunity to uplift marginalized voices of youth in the community. This program aims to help both new and expert librarians create their own book clubs, and specifically, a book club with a theme of inclusivity. The children’s librarian will discuss strategies to assess the community, experience in diversifying book club selections from classic children’s literature predominantly featuring animal protagonists and white characters to literature that reflects the community, and the resulting conversations that take place among book club participants. Over the past three years, the teen librarian has created and facilitated multiple outreach book clubs with local organizations, all with the goal of bringing marginalized teens stories where characters who look like them are the heroes of their own stories. These book clubs have had transformative effects in engaging both avid and reluctant readers, connecting local youth with their library & librarian, and creating a welcoming environment for the youth to openly discuss the issues affecting them today. The librarians will offer actionable steps to promote diverse reading in book clubs and share reader’s advisory resources and materials for book clubs and for collection’s development. The presentation will also address and provide talking points to navigate resistant views that discussing social justice and race is "political." Encouraging fruitful discussion builds a foundational awareness in youth that encourages civic engagement as a young person and ultimately as active citizens who can create change. Social justice and equity align with everyday programming for children and teens. Presenters will discuss how the inclusive book clubs have acted as a springboard to lead change in other areas of programming for youth such as partnering with licensed, experienced counselors to present programs to families about speaking about race with children.


Sophie Meridien, Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach

Kristine Techavanich, Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach