Black Characters Matter: Siblings Continue Effort for Representation in School Libraries

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The shelves of the library in New Britain’s Vance Elementary School just got a bit more colorful thanks to the work of brother and sister Tyshawn and Mariah who wanted to see themselves represented in the stories they and their classmates read.

Over the summer, we introduced you to the siblings as they launched their effort to get more books with Black characters onto school library shelves, year-round and not just during Black History Month. They call their effort Black Characters Matter.

Two New Britain elementary school students are celebrating diversity by bringing more books with children of color to schools in their community.

“We are going to give these to kids so they can know which colors they are and who they are,” said Tyshawn Yopp, who is now 5 years old and in kindergarten.

“It is great. I can see other people, characters who look like me in the book,” said older Tyshawn’s older sister Mariah, who is a 9-year-old fourth-grader.

In just about four months, they’ve raised $15,000 to buy books for Connecticut school libraries that tell stories from the perspective of Black children, something the kids say they never saw before.

People from across the country who learned about the siblings’ story wanted to help sending letters, donations and more than 600 books with Black and brown characters.

Vance kindergarten teacher Carrie Clark helped Mariah and Tyshawn with their project, and believes being able to show children representations of themselves will change their lives.

“I get chills when I think about the power that this has behind it that these kids, the majority of the students I teach I’ll be able to pull a book when I want to teach a lesson that has characters that look like them,” said Clark.

To purchase a book from the kids’ wishlist, visit:

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