Community, Features, Impact

Storybook Channel hopes to bring diverse narratives to children’s literature

The Boston University chapter of the nonprofit organization Storybook Channel led a book swap at the George Sherman Union last week to raise awareness about their club and its mission to support independent bookstores, donate children’s books to low-income schools and share diverse stories. 

Storybook Channel
A Storybook Channel event cover photo. The Storybook Channel is a Boston University club that held a book swap in front of the George Sherman Union to raise awareness about their mission. COURTESY VIA BOSTON UNIVERSITY ENGAGE.

Hana Yoo, a junior in the College of Arts and Science, president of the club, and College of Communication junior Jia Lin Li, vice president, started the non-profit organization last year. The pair later decided to make it a club at BU, opening up a chapter this semester with a full e-board.

Storybook Channel’s mission recognizes the biases created by a lack of representation in literature and hopes to alleviate these by sourcing and donating children’s literature that has “mirrors” and “windows” — which Yoo defined as times when children see themselves in books socially, culturally, economically and racially, and see outside of their lives as well. 

“A lot of people like to look at Storybook Channel and think ‘Oh, this is a club for people who like reading books,’ but it’s really not,” Yoo said. “It’s about allowing all different people in general to be able to normalize their lives at home or in their country or within their culture or religion.”

At the book swap, SBC featured paper wrapped books with brief descriptions of the plot and additional information about the group, to encourage people to read different stories. 

“Folks may be picky about what kinds of books they may want to read, or literally judge a book by its cover,”  said Rudy Joseph, head of research, a junior in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. “The primary purpose of the book swap is just to raise awareness, however, the reason we kept it hidden at the same time … is to prevent some of that biased thinking.”

Yoo said that the inspiration for Storybook Channel came from her personal experiences and upbringing. As an English and Asians studies double major at BU now, she says reading was foundational to her.

“Reading did shape my life,” Yoo said. “It shaped how I viewed the world and it shaped how I was able to empathize and see other people’s perspectives and other people’s lives and stories.”

Michael Tran, a junior in CAS and the director of internal relations, also credited his personal upbringing for his interest in the Storybook Channel. Growing up in an immigrant household, he said he wished stories like his parents were shown in stories.

“Joining Storybook Channel really resonated for me because growing up a lot of the stories that I heard were not reflective of my culture, or how I grew up or how I was raised,” Tran said. “SBC spoke to me in a way because I was able to help the next generation of young children set a better image for themselves.” 

Julia Samuels, a Wheelock junior and head of external relations, said the group’s goal is to provide books to low-income educational facilities, in addition to addressing and compensating for the lack of representation in books for children aged 0-3. 

“A lot of people overlook [toddler’s book representations] because they don’t think about how children start developing biases and images of themselves from the day they’re born,” Samuels said. “Kids need books that both reflect them and show them other identities.” 

The group is also working on creating a database of diverse children’s books that will eventually be brought into communities in need. Joseph said the books provided by SBC also aim to encourage the students’ creativity and education.

Another main goal for the Storybook Channel is to collaborate with different cultural groups on campus, as well as find ways to encourage involvement in the greater Boston area as well, such as visiting schools and reading to children meaningful books that they see themselves in.

The ultimate goal of the Storybook Channel is to make sure students see themselves in the stories they read.

“We really want to fight to help serve every student that maybe wouldn’t have the opportunity to find themselves in books be able to find themselves in books like in their own library,” Yoo said.

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