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Go Ask Mom

Social Justice Storytimes seek to spark dialogues, build safer communities

Posted August 13

The mission for the popular Social Justice Storytime series is twofold: To promote a more inclusive society by creating a space for children and families to learn and talk about contemporary issues. And the method is time-honored: Through books.

The storytimes, designed for kids ages 0 to 8, include carefully chosen books, which explore a variety of topics, along with activities, music and crafts.

Jessica Hulick, a stay at home mom of two young children in Durham, was behind the first storytime in October 2016. Hulick, who started the Parents of Northern Durham Facebook page, now 2,100 members strong, put together a small group of moms to get it going.The first event drew more families than they ever expected.

In this Q&A, Hulick, who also is a community organizer and the state lead for BeSMART, which works for responsible gun storage and use to keep kids safe, shares more about the storytime series. She recently launched a GoFundMe campaign that was near its goal and trending over the weekend. Money raised will go toward the purchase of books, supplies and advertising.

Go Ask Mom: How did the Social Justice Storytime get started?

Jessica Hulick: I read an article about a similar project in another state and thought ,“Let’s do that in Durham!” I had already started a collection of social justice books for my own children and began researching the various topics and the best ways to discuss issues with young children. Then, I posted in several parents group, asking if anyone wanted to help. A small group of moms met at Ponysaurus in September and we held our first storytime in October. More than 100 people came to our first event! It was very well received.

GAM: Now you host a regular Social Justice Storytime. What topics have you covered? What's been the response?

JH: Some of our topics include bullying versus positive behavior, differently-abled people, family structures, gender identity, immigrant and refugee rights, LGBTQIA people, racial equality, religion and spirituality, healthy choices and our bodies, women and girls, and environmental issues. The response has been great.

We have also organized a household needs drive for refugees and a winter coat drive for Durham’s children. The response was so incredible! My minivan was completely packed. In August, we will be collecting school supplies for Fill That Bus and we are planning more in the future.

GAM: Some people might think toddlers are too young to be thinking about these kinds of serious topics. What would you say to them? How has it helped shaped the way you talk about these issues with your own kids?

JH: Research suggests prejudices may form at a much earlier age than previously thought, sometimes as early as three years old. My primary goal is to educate children to build stronger and safer communities. We know that the stories we hear in childhood have the power to revolutionize our lives.

GAM: Could you recommend some favorite books that you've read for storytimes?

JH: “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, is one of my favorite books. It is based on a true story and makes me cry everytime! “Amazing Grace,” by Mary Hoffman, and “All the Colors We Are,” by Katie Kissinger, are also favorites.

GAM: What does the future hold for the group?

JH: We have just started our first fundraising campaign! We've made an Amazon Wish List of our books and we are accepting monetary donations through GoFundMe. We are meeting with local organizations to develop partnerships, hoping to reach larger audiences. It is very exciting. Our next storytime is Aug. 19.

More information is on the storytime series' Facebook page.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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