Today, January 20, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.
Each year, the Blake Mini Library book drive kicks off on the MLK Day of Service, collecting through Valentine’s Day. The project encourages and supports the caring acts of children who work with their communities to collect books for the Hamilton Families shelter program here in San Francisco. This youth philanthropy effort supports the reading, writing and science literacy of children ages birth to 21 living in homes for runaways, homeless shelters and foster care. The project began in 2013, when a 6-year old boy named Blake Ansari began a book drive in New York City with the support of his family and friends.
In 2020, we invite friends and families to share acts of compassion and creativity, in celebration of the 5th annual Blake Mini Library Book Drive in San Francisco.
Learn more about the issue of homelessness and the impacts on children and finding ways to help. Baharav, H., Leos-Urbel, J., Obradovic, J., & Bardack, S. (2017). The Educational Success of Homeless and Highly Mobile Students in San Francisco Unified School District. Stanford, CA. John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, Stanford Graduate School of Education.
Inspire children by showing that you support their efforts.
“When you listen to the community, learn from the community, and help the community, you connect to your best self”
On Monday, January 13, 2020, Dianne Feinstein Elementary School will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (1/20/2020) with a special assembly, “Breaking Barriers” with Marcus Shelby & Friends.
Artists have long used music and images to communicate ideas and emotions, to inspire action and movement towards a more just society. Music is a unifying force that has been used across generations to pass on stories of determination and courage.
Composer/bassist Marcus Shelby says, “I use music to reveal how we got to where we are; to reflect history in the most positive and truthful way.” “Breaking Barriers” will illustrate how unique voices have collectively used “The Blues,” an art form with deep roots in African-American history. Students will hear stories and songs associated with notable historical figures, such as Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson, and hear how the strength and bravery of everyday people has helped to shape America’s history.
MARCUS SHELBY is a composer, arranger, band leader, bassist, and educator who currently lives in San Francisco, California. His work focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives, social movements, and music education. Currently, Shelby is an artist in residence with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and a new resident artist director for the San Francisco Jazz Festival 2019-2020. Shelby leads the SF Community Music Center’s Teen Jazz Orchestra program and is also an artist in residence at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival where he is the music director of the 100 member Freedom Jazz Choir, youth choir, and youth music ensemble. Shelby has composed several oratorios and suites including Harriet Tubman, Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio, Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues, Green and Blues, and a children’s opera Harriet’s Spirit produced by Opera Parallèle in 2018. Shelby also composed the score and performed in Anna Deveare’s off Broadway Play and HBO feature film Notes from the Field and many other productions over the past 21 years. Shelby has served on the San Francisco Arts Commission since 2013. https://marcusshelby.com/
It was the most powerful song of the 20th century. It started out in church pews and picket lines, inspired one of the greatest freedom movements in U.S. history, and went on to topple governments and bring about reform all over the world. Word for word, the short, simple lyrics of “We Shall Overcome” might be some of the most influential words in the English language.
The song’s first publication gives credit of authorship to, among others, Silphia Horton of the Highlander Folk School, who learned the song from the tobacco workers, and Pete Seeger, who helped to popularize the song and gentrified its title from “We Will Overcome.”
CHILD OF THE DREAM: A MEMOIR OF 1963 by Sharon Robinson
“Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” is a baseball-themed character education program developed by Major League Baseball and Scholastic Inc. Using America’s sport, baseball, as the metaphor for life, the curriculum is based on the values demonstrated by barrier breaker Jackie Robinson: citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence and teamwork.
THE UNDEFEATED by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This poem, originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes.
Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an American artist who currently exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums nationwide and abroad. His paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of several notable institutions including The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. https://www.kadirnelson.com/
Designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards annually recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience. Further, the Award encourages the artistic expression of the black experience via literature and the graphic arts in biographical, social, and historical treatments by African American authors and illustrators.
Each year from MLK Day through Valentine’s Day, students are invited to help to collect book donations. Students are invited to help create posters and Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for the book drive or contribute reviews recommending their favorite books. Students can also support the processing of books by writing special notes of encouragement for future readers.
The 2020 Blake Mini Library Book Drive kicks off on January 20th. This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday marks the 25th anniversary of the day of service celebrating the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy.
This year’s book drive donations, which will include a specially curated selection of titles on the theme of “Breaking Barriers,” will be delivered to the Hamilton Families on Read Across America Day (3/2/2020).
2019 marked the fourth annual Blake Mini Library book drive for the Hamilton Families Shelter Program, San Francisco’s leading service provider to families experiencing homelessness. It was wonderful to receive the invaluable support of the two student councils at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School and Rooftop Alternative Pre-K-8 School.
This year’s special curated book selection explored the theme, “From darkness, into the light.” Special editions donated to this year’s book drive included the 75th anniversary edition of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Fred Korematsu Speaks Up (Fighting for Justice) by Laura Atkins and San Yogi, She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton, Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford, The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years by Jane Kim and Thayer Walker and Where’s Rodney? by Carmen Bogan.
On Thursday, February 7, from 5:30pm-8pm, we hosted a special screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor for the DFES community. The film is a very thoughtful and moving look at Fred Roger’s groundbreaking work in education, childhood and media, and the screening gave parents a wonderful opportunity to consider the impact of acts of kindness towards children. Blake Ansari, the young founder of Blake Mini Library, was six years old when he hosted his first book drive for homeless children and children in foster care in New York. Blake loves to read and wants other kids to have the opportunity to enjoy reading too.
We were especially grateful that children’s book author/illustrator Ashley Wolff was able to stop by Dianne Feinstein to lead “Kindness, Kids & Kritters,” a special art workshop that taught students how to draw the two DFES school mascots. Leona the Lion and Edwin the Panda couldn’t be more different, but, like Ashley, these two friends share a special love of books and reading. Ashley kindly created a special poster for the 2019 book drive.
After her visit, Ashley asked Blake if he had a favorite animal. What a wonderful surprise to receive Ashley’s special act of kindness a few days later… a brand new logo created especially for Blake Mini Library featuring the fastest land animal on Earth — the amazing cheetah!
Thank you to all our friends and neighbors who helped to make the 2019 Blake Mini Library book drive such a special and speedy delivery!
In 2018, we kicked off our 3rd annual Blake Mini Library Book Drive on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and invited readers of all ages to help by writing notes of encouragement and donating a new or newly read children’s book to the children at Hamilton Families. On Read Across America Day (March 2, 2018) we donated 529 books, filled with handwritten notes of encouragement, including some special author autographs. Ms. Woo’s fourth graders accepted the Blake Mini Library Mannequin Challenge, and constructed and donated the LEGO “VR Library of the Future.”
Rooftop Spirit for Harriet’s Spirit: #monumentalwomen
This year, our book drive coincided with a world premiere opera — Opera Parallele’s production of Harriet’s Spirit, featuring a cast of eighth grade students from Rooftop School. The opera was set in both present day middle school and on the Combahee River during the Civil War, when Harriet Tubman become the first woman to plan and conduct a military raid.
In conjunction with Harriet’s Spirit, we honored Harriet Tubman and some of our other favorite “Monumental Women” with a curated collection of children’s books:
Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
by Margot Lee Shetterly
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed The World by Rachel Ignotofsky
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey
The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot
Coral Reefs by Sylvia Earle
Rickie and Henry by Jane Goodall
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers & Shawn Harris
Rickshaw Girl and You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Can Art Change the World? by JR
Connect to Your Best Self
Rooftop students were thrilled to be the very first recipients of a Blake Mini Library mini-grant from the Connect to Your Best Self Foundation. The grant enabled us to host a cookie and blue marble gratitude party for the children at Hamilton Families. As Ms. Kennedy’s 4th graders prepared for the cookie party, they made origami boxes for the blue marbles and wrapped copies of the Blue Marble coloring book, Rolling Along on A Blue Marble Dream. They also worked together to write a new story.
“If you give a mouse a cookie and a blue marble…”
If you give a mouse a cookie, the mouse might enjoy a tiny blue marble too. If she eats the cookie (and another and another and another), she might turn blue like the marble. You could give her a glass of milk, but she might drink and turn the milk blue too. She also might throw up, but then at least she won’t be blue anymore. But she might get hyper and need to run around outside. You could take her outside and let her run around the grass field five times, but she might get a side stitch after eating so many cookies. If she lays down and passes out, you could run to get a glass of cold water and chuck it at her to wake her up. When she wakes up, she might see a blue-eyed wolf. If the wolf comes closer and closer and closer, the mouse might run faster and faster and faster. If the mouse runs really fast back to you, be sure to open the door to let her in. She will be happy to be safe with her cookie, her blue marble… and you!
— A “rolling” cookie party story by Ms. Kennedy’s 4th grade class of 2018
I 💙 U So Much!
Thank you to Blake Mini Library founder Blake Ansari, The Connect To Your Best Self Fund, and many our generous donors and youth philanthropists who made this year’s book drive a special celebration for all involved.
Carla Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to serve as the Librarian of Congress, holds that her passion for reading came from her favorite childhood book, “Bright April,” a 1946 children’s story book written and illustrated by Marguerite de Angeli, who later won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature. The Nation’s Librarian knows that children need to see themselves reflected in the books that they read. “Books can be mirrors, and they can be windows,” says Hayden.
Rooftop Students Take the Blake Mini Library #MannequinChallenge
The Library of Congress Mannequin Challenge and Emerging Traditions traces the historical antecedents of the Mannequin Challenge back to the advent of photography and the tableaux craze of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Library of Congress blog entry on the social media trend also notes that “A common theme seems to be an expression of group identity, of clubs, classes, groups of friends, athletic teams, organizations, musical groups, and others: “this is who we are” summed up in a short, shareable video.”
Rooftop fourth graders had a whole lot of fun creating their own Mannequin Challenge videos. These young librarians-in-training want to open up a whole new world of reading for all children to enjoy free access to books — 24/7.
On Valentine’s Day Blake Mini Library donates books to children and youth living in domestic violence, homeless, foster care and runaway youth shelters. The students at Rooftop Alternative PreK-8 School are currently joining Blake Ansari’s efforts to bring the joy of reading to homeless children. Students are helping to fill the rainbow-colored shelves of the Blake Mini Library at Hamilton Families in San Francisco.
Book donations will be received by The Studios at Rooftop School’s Burnett & Mayeda Campuses, starting from MLK, Jr. Day of Service through Valentine’s Day, when the books will be delivered to Hamilton Families in the Tenderloin.
Please consider donating your new and recently new books (no cloth books, please) to children from birth to age 21.
Remember that literacy plays an important role for children and families. Especially in times of crisis, it can provide a bridge for individuals to find refuge in stories of others’ experiences (MacGillivray, 2010b). — “Supporting the Literacy Development of Children Living in Homeless Shelters” http://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/education_articles/3/
Include a Note of Encouragement
With the 2016 Valentine’s Day Blake Mini Library book drive, Rooftop School invited book donors to include a Note of Encouragement, a special surprise message hidden inside the book to be discovered by a future reader. The reading and writing of these notes helped create a special bond between two people who might never ever meet — the donor and the recipient. The Notes of Encouragement added an element of surprise and delight, while conveying positive thoughts of love, hope and gratitude.
“There’s a Whole New World in Your Book”
As a child who loves to read, Blake Ansari wanted to make sure that the homeless children had access to books. At the age of six, Blake began his youth philanthropy effort by donating 600 books to the PATH emergency family shelter in the Bronxin 2014.
Blake’s mother, Dr. Starita Boyce Ansari, supports her son’s efforts to help underprivileged youth. Believing in the power of youth philanthrophy, Dr. Ansari offers us the model of giving circles, which meld responsiveness and altruism with community engagement, nurturing our students’ humanity. “Giving circles have shown the highest potential. A giving circle nurtures students appreciation and understanding of others’ needs, enabling them to come together to support charitable organizations or community initiatives for a set period of time. Their members become more aware of and engaged in the causes they fund, and learn how to make our world better, not just for them, but for all.”
To quote Blake: “When you listen to the community, learn from the community, and help the community, you connect to your best self.”
The rising cost of living and stagnant wages of New York City has resulted in The City having the highest number of children in America living in homeless shelters. Forty percent of shelter residents are children.
In San Francisco, the technology boom has displaced working-families for high income young professionals.San Francisco has the second highest rate of homeless children in the nation.Thirty percent of San Francisco’s homeless are children.
Opening Doors, updated and amended in 2015, is the nation’s first comprehensive Federal strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Goals include preventing and ending homelessness for families with children and youth in 2020.