Port Coquitlam is not untouched by terrible events in Canada and around the world that reflect biases and racism rather than understanding and collaboration.
Everyday there is another news story that highlights divisions between people but a new initiative aims to bridge those divides — with books.
This spring and summer, visitors to Little Free Libraries will see some brand new books among the shared items — with titles representing the experiences of people of diverse backgrounds.
The effort to include stories by Canadians of Métis, Japanese, Syrian and Jamaican heritage is a collaboration between the city of Port Coquitlam through its new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable, and a local advocacy and education group.
Abigail Cameron, co-ordinator of the Tri-Cities Local Immigration Partnership, said the idea grew out of discussions about how to make Port Coquitlam more welcoming and inclusive.
“It’s a great way of engaging the community,” said Cameron. “The community members can say, ‘I can play a role, no matter how small, whether you are taking a book or sharing book.’”
With the city’s 15 Little Free Libraries growing in popularity in recent years, they were a natural starting point for the Read in Colour initiative.
Paid for with funds from Resilience BC, the books have been chosen by the Coquitlam Public Library’s Diversity in Books book club.
They include The Boy on the Beach by Tima Kurdi of Coquitlam, whose nephew was found deceased on a beach in Turkey — drowned in a failed crossing to escape to Greece from the Syrian conflict.
Meanwhile, Port Coquitlam’s mayor hopes reading the different stories and sharing other books with different perspective will help people “recognize the valuable contributions people of diverse backgrounds bring to Port Coquitlam.”
“We’re hoping our residents will use this as an opportunity to share books they’ve enjoyed reading and can bring important learning to others. It’s part of our ongoing work to make Port Coquitlam a community that welcomes and celebrates all people.”
The initiative expands on the efforts of the city’s new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable that launched in 2020 to help address issues of racism and discrimination.
One of the top priorities identified by roundtable members is to engage community members in celebrating Black, Indigenous, people of colour and LGBTQ2S+ communities, and to foster engagement with diverse experiences and identities.
“Our hope is the more you diversify your reading list it helps open your eyes and your own understanding,” said Cameron.
“In a world where we are so connected globally, where are neighbours are all from different cultures and backgrounds with different abilities, it’s a small way of getting to understand your neighbours.”
Little Library stewards will be invited to sign a pledge as part of Little Free Library’s Read in Colour initiative, indicating their commitment to read and share diverse books.
Book recommendations, a map of Little Libraries across the city, and information about how to donate books are posted at portcoquitlam.ca/littlelibrary.
Books available will include:
• Requiem by Frances Itani
• From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle
• Can You Hear Me Now? By Celina Caesar-Chavannes
• The Boy on the Beach by Tima Kurdi