Reading program from Boulder County YWCA wants to end racism

YWCA of Boulder County brings program to schools

BOULDER, Colo. -- Anthony Birdow went to segregated schools in Texas. No,  speaking about diversity and racism to a class of mostly white children at Foothills elementary school in Boulder, he's sees that a lot has changed.

"They didn’t carry around some of the same discomfort that my generation did with just saying the word racism," says Birdow.

Birdow has been volunteering for the YWCA Boulder County program "Reading to End Racism" for several years. He and other volunteers go into Boulder Valley School District classrooms and read books. The books are often about a character with a different life experience than most of the children. After the reading, the class has a discussion.

The goal of "Reading to End Racism" is to expose these kids to differences and help them understand other people's experiences. A book is a tool for that, because it gives kids someone they can relate to.

"I think children remember the book better, the illustrations, and they can relate to someone that’s their own age and going through this," says volunteer reader Malti Nikrad. 

The YWCA Boulder County funds the program and trains the volunteer readers. The volunteers come from different backgrounds -- not all of them are minorities -- but all come with a mission to bring racism to the forefront.

"We think the important thing is the dialogue," says volunteer trainer Ema Lyman. She says the goal is to exchange opinions and try to understand where those come from.

The students are learning basic but important lessons that they can build on in the future.

"Everyone is equal, so treat everyone equal," said one student.

Reading to End Racism is currently in 12 Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) schools. The program is looking to expand into the St. Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD) for the 2017-2018 school year. 

Interested schools can contact me Elly Johnson at elly@ywcaboulder.org.

Interested volunteers can also register for the free training on their website. The next training is Wednesday, April 26 from 5:30-7:30 pm at the Boulder YWCA office.   

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