Library teaches cultural awareness to youngsters

Annette Burford, a children’s librarian, slowly guided and showed small children the process to make paper magnets, while simultaneously teaching them how Southern African currency works in the late afternoon of Monday, Jan 15. Even in the digital age of reading books on tablets, Burford prefers to incorporate hands-on arts and crafts into everyday activities for the children who attend library functions.

Families representing different nationalities, celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day together by partaking in Passport to Diversity at the Valley Ranch Library. Kids from kindergarten through the fifth grade were invited to learn about the diverse cultures of 15 countries. With a passport in hand, the youngsters were able to visit tables, which represented different countries.

“I wanted to do more than just showing a movie to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” said Burford, who designed the Passport to Diversity event. “I decided to go ahead and expand on the Martin Luther King Day program. I knew the kids were going to be out of school, and they would need something to do. I decided to come up with something constructive and creative for them.

“We want the kids to know that Martin Luther King’s birthday is more than his speech and a day they get out of school. I wanted to bring cultural awareness to them by spotlighting different countries and showing them something they may not have seen before. Our activities involve the kids doing things they may not have the chance to experience unless they are in that country.

“I’m excited to be able to showcase diversity to our patrons and the children,” Burford said. “It’s always fun to help them get to experience something different, and I thoroughly enjoy doing what I do.”

The event spotlighted the countries of Belgium, Australia, France, South Korea, Denmark, Japan, Finland, United States of America, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

 

“We’re basically exposing the kids to different crafts and snacks from different cultures,” Erica Hassien, library assistant at Valley Ranch Library, said. “All of the kids have been enthusiastic about this event. The parents are really glad we did this. My favorite part about this is watching the kids discover something new. I love it whenever they say, ‘That’s so cool,’ or ‘I never knew that existed.’ Even I learned a couple of things today.

“I hope we can do more stuff like this in the future. It seems like everyone enjoyed it.”

The Australia table allowed kids to make their own fairy bread, which is white bread with a spread of butter and sprinkles on top. The Japan table taught kids fortune cookies actually come from the U.S. not Asia, and the Africa table converted African currency to the dollar standard.

“This event was so important to my kids, because we live in such a diverse area,” Fuzia Becchi, the mother of two of the participants, said. “It’s good to know more about the people we are living with. I would’ve love to see more countries like the Middle East incorporated into the event next time.”

In addition to his famous marches, Martin Luther King planned protests, boycotts, and he established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization.

“Martin Luther King is a big part of diversity,” Lakashana Parasuraman, a fifth grader, said. “He helped stop the separation of blacks and whites, and without him, our world wouldn’t have been able to have freedom. If he didn’t have that movement, we would be in a different place without his equal rights.

“This is important because everyone deserves to be treated the same. God made us all equal. It’s not like he wanted one person to have a lot of power and another person to have nothing. I believe that is important now, because we get to celebrate everyone’s counties and their special activities. We’re all able to see how each country is different and what they do.”

“I like this event, because Martin Luther King supported and fought for everyone’s rights,” Nikiata Shori, a fifth grader, said. “He wanted everyone to be together, and be treated fairly, and not have separate rights. Now, we’re all here together celebrating different countries.

“Everyone is the same. Skin color shouldn’t matter. Everyone should be together, no matter who they are.”