CINCINNATI — Arin Gentry is looking has been on the search for the perfect books for elementary-age kids. Her mission is to find as many as she can that are written by Black authors for her Black Literature Book Drive for students.
“I remember when I was growing up, I didn’t read a lot of books written by Black authors that centered around Black life in a positive way, and I think that that’s so important when it comes to developing Black minds,” said Gentry.
Developing Black minds has been Gentry’s main focus. She hopes these books will encourage the students to get excited and interested in reading.
“I love reading,” she said. “I’ve always loved to read, and we know that’s not always the case for a lot of young people and just people in general. So in my mind, I was thinking if we gave them books that they could relate to, they would want to read.”
Recently, Gentry donated 80 books to Cincinnati’s Midway School. It’s a predominantly Black school and having books that represent the students is something that Gentry said is very important.
“It gives them something to look forward to, to hope for,” she said. “It lets them know that, yes, you can be an engineer. Yes, you can have big hair. Yes, it’s OK to be ambitious."
Since starting the book drive in the summer of 2020, she’s donated a total of 1,000 books to two schools.
“I’m so super excited because both schools I donated to, you can see the excitement on the principal’s and the staff's face once they receive the books,” she said. “And to me, that just means that the books are going to the right places.”
Hiawatha Francisco is the principal at Midway School. He said he’s grateful for the donation and the effect that I’ll have on the students.
“I think it’s important for the kids to see somebody like themselves in these books and can relate to them and the things that they’re going through — the struggles that they’re having, something that’s real and tangible, and they’re able to hold in their hands and read about it,” said Francisco.
Once these books get into the students’ hands Gentry says she’s hopeful that they’ll be on the right path to success.
“I know that that at home they may not have access to books so being able to have their very own book builds that sense of ownership, helps build confidence in them and really gets them going when it comes to reading,” she said.