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This woman is on a mission to get diverse books in the hands of every child. Here's why.

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First Book

Ginger Young was reading "Martin’s Big Words" — a picture-book biography of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. — to a fifth-grade class.

When she finished, one of the students ran up to her excitedly. She had enjoyed the book so much that she wanted to know how she could get a copy of her own.

“You can have my copy,” Young told her.


The girl’s jaw dropped and her eyes lit up. She thanked Young and then ran over to her mother, who was watching nearby, to show off the gift.

For Young, these moments aren’t just heartwarming — they’re why she does this work.

That’s because when you give a book to a child, it’s so much more than a simple act of kindness  — it can have a powerful impact on their life.

All photos provided by First Book and Ginger Young.

This is especially true if that kid has never seen themselves in the books they’re reading.

As a literacy educator and founder of Book Harvest, a nonprofit in North Carolina that has now distributed over half a million books to kids in need, Young has seen firsthand how powerful it is when children connect with the diversity they see in the stories they read, especially given that there aren't actually that many of these kinds of books out there.

In fact, that’s why she started Book Harvest’s “Mirrors and Windows” program in partnership with First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise organization that provides new books  and resources  to classrooms and programs in under-resourced communities, helping create equal access to quality education.

She was inspired to name the program after reading the work of Rudine Sims Bishop, who coined the phrase to describe how books can act as “mirrors” to reflect a child’s world or “windows” into worlds other than their own.

Young wanted to make sure the kids receiving books could see their own experiences and identities reflected in these narratives — and that they could read about other communities too.

It can be powerful for a child who hasn't had access to a story with characters that reflect their own experiences to finally see themselves in what they read.

That's because it can be especially challenging, if not impossible, for children of color, children with disabilities, children who identify as gender nonconforming or transgender, or children who come from nontraditional families to find books that speak to their experiences. And without that representation, these kids will struggle to feel that their own stories matter.

In fact, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed 3,400 children's books that they received in 2016 and they found that only 287 of the books were about black characters, which amounts to only 8.4%. Further, only 240, or 7% were about Asian Pacific Americans and 169 (4.97%) were about Latinos. Only 55 (1.6%) were about Native Americans.

While these ratios have improved in recent years, there are still more books that feature animals than children of color.

"Every child wants to see themselves mirrored in stories, wants to be connected to others as who they are. It’s a fundamental, basic human need," Young says.

It can be challenging for children from marginalized communities to see what's possible when there is little positive and dynamic representation of their experiences. Children both need and deserve affirmation from the outside world that their stories matter too. And if they don't get that validation, it can cause them to lose interest in reading — something that could affect their ability to succeed in school later in life.

Not only do these books affirm a child’s sense of self-worth, but they also help cultivate empathy by exposing them to other worlds.

Building empathy in children early is key to creating an accepting, inclusive society. "[Books offer] a sense of others mattering as much as we do," Young explains.

"Stories are how you create that," she continues. "It’s very important to have the avenues to developing empathy in place way before children get to school."

Research has shown that reading fictional stories can break down stereotypes. Reading multicultural children’s literature can have a powerful impact on social and emotional learning, enhancing empathy toward others. It can also get kids more excited to understand the world around them.

That’s why Young created a book list that goes all the way from pre-K through middle school, including many titles from First Book’s Stories for All Project collection, which places a special emphasis on diverse books and books by underrepresented authors and illustrators. Young believes that parents need to create a strong foundation for empathy with their kids before they even get to school, and they can do that by reading books to them.  

"Those are the kind of young readers who grow up to be the citizens of the world we should be aspiring to," Young says.

The good news is, the momentum is building.

There is an increasing demand for books that are as complex and thoughtful as the communities reading them — books that represent a variety of races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, languages, and cultures from storytellers whose backgrounds also reflect that rich diversity.

And this, Young hopes, can grow into something larger than her own efforts. As she says, "We can knit this into something that is much bigger than any one community."

After all, children across the country deserve access to stories that inspire them, with characters and themes that ring true to their experiences, particularly in a world that rarely offers these children the affirmation they need.

“If we are to create the kind of society we want for our children, we have to use the power of stories to show our children that they matter,” she explains. “If we haven’t done that for every child, then all children have suffered.”

If we want to create an empathetic society in the future — one where all children believe in the value of their own story — these books are critical.

With the help of First Book, Ginger Young is giving children books that are truly empowering, helping kids navigate a divisive and challenging world.

Millions of children from low-income areas don’t have the tools needed to learn, placing them at a disadvantage that perpetuates poverty. First Book is a community that believes education is the way out of poverty for kids in need.

Image from Pixabay.

Under the sea...

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The Wilderness Society


You're probably familiar with the literary classic "Moby-Dick."

But in case you're not, here's the gist: Moby Dick is the name of a huge albino sperm whale.

(Get your mind outta the gutter.)


There's this dude named Captain Ahab who really really hates the whale, and he goes absolutely bonkers in his quest to hunt and kill it, and then everything is awful and we all die unsatisfied with our shared sad existence and — oops, spoilers!


OK, technically, the narrator Ishmael survives. So it's actually a happy ending (kind of)!

whales, Moby Dick, poaching endangered species

Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Basically, it's a famous book about revenge and obsession that was published back in 1851, and it's really, really long.

It's chock-full of beautiful passages and dense symbolism and deep thematic resonance and all those good things that earned it a top spot in the musty canon of important literature.

There's also a lot of mundane descriptions about the whaling trade as well (like, a lot). That's because it came out back when commercial whaling was still a thing we did.

conservation, ocean water conservation

A non-albino mother and baby sperm whale.

Photo by Gabriel Barathieu/Wikipedia.

In fact, humans used to hunt more than 50,000 whales each year to use for oil, meat, baleen, and oil. (Yes, I wrote oil twice.) Then, in 1946, the International Whaling Commission stepped in and said "Hey, wait a minute, guys. There's only a few handful of these majestic creatures left in the entire world, so maybe we should try to not kill them anymore?"

And even then, commercial whaling was still legal in some parts of the world until as recently as 1986.

International Whaling Commission, harpoons

Tail in the water.

Whale's tail pale ale GIF via GoPro/YouTube

And yet by some miracle, there are whales who were born before "Moby-Dick" was published that are still alive today.

What are the odds of that? Honestly it's hard to calculate since we can't exactly swim up to a bowhead and say, "Hey, how old are you?" and expect a response. (Also that's a rude question — jeez.)

Thanks to some thoughtful collaboration between researchers and traditional Inupiat whalers (who are still allowed to hunt for survival), scientists have used amino acids in the eyes of whales and harpoon fragments lodged in their carcasses to determine the age of these enormous animals — and they found at least three bowhead whales who were living prior to 1850.

Granted those are bowheads, not sperm whales like the fictional Moby Dick, (and none of them are albino, I think), but still. Pretty amazing, huh?

whale blubber, blue whales, extinction

This bowhead is presumably in adolescence, given its apparent underwater moping.

GIF via National Geographic.

This is a particularly remarkable feat considering that the entire species was dwindling near extinction.

Barring these few centenarian leviathans, most of the whales still kickin' it today are between 20 and 70 years old. That's because most whale populations were reduced to 10% or less of their numbers between the 18th and 20th centuries, thanks to a few over-eager hunters (and by a few, I mean all of them).

Today, sperm whales are considered one of the most populous species of massive marine mammals; bowheads, on the other hand, are still in trouble, despite a 20% increase in population since the mid-1980s. Makes those few elderly bowheads that much more impressive, huh?

population, Arctic, Great Australian Blight

Southern Right Whales hangin' with a paddleboarder in the Great Australian Bight.

GIF via Jaimen Hudson.

Unfortunately, just as things are looking up, these wonderful whales are in trouble once again.

We might not need to worry our real-life Captain Ahabs anymore, but our big aquatic buddies are still being threatened by industrialization — namely, from oil drilling in the Arctic and the Great Australian Bight.

In the off-chance that companies like Shell and BP manage not to spill millions of gallons of harmful crude oil into the water, the act of drilling alone is likely to maim or kill millions of animals, and the supposedly-safer sonic blasting will blow out their eardrums or worse.

This influx of industrialization also affects their migratory patterns — threatening not only the humans who depend on them, but also the entire marine ecosystem.

And I mean, c'mon — who would want to hurt this adorable face?

social responsibility, nature, extinction

BOOP.

Image from Pixabay.

Whales might be large and long-living. But they still need our help to survive.

If you want another whale to make it to his two-hundred-and-eleventy-first birthday (which you should because I hear they throw great parties), then sign this petition to protect the waters from Big Oil and other industrial threats.

I guarantee Moby Dick will appreciate it.


This article originally appeared on 11.04.15

Science

Researchers dumped tons of coffee waste into a forest. This is what it looks like now.

30 dump truck loads and two years later, the forest looks totally different.

One of the biggest problems with coffee production is that it generates an incredible amount of waste. Once coffee beans are separated from cherries, about 45% of the entire biomass is discarded.

So for every pound of roasted coffee we enjoy, an equivalent amount of coffee pulp is discarded into massive landfills across the globe. That means that approximately 10 million tons of coffee pulp is discarded into the environment every year.



When disposed of improperly, the waste can cause serious damage soil and water sources.

However, a new study published in the British Ecological Society journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence has found that coffee pulp isn't just a nuisance to be discarded. It can have an incredibly positive impact on regrowing deforested areas of the planet.

via British Ecological Society

In 2018, researchers from ETH-Zurich and the University of Hawaii spread 30 dump trucks worth of coffee pulp over a roughly 100' x 130' area of degraded land in Costa Rica. The experiment took place on a former coffee farm that underwent rapid deforestation in the 1950s.

The coffee pulp was spread three-feet thick over the entire area.

Another plot of land near the coffee pulp dump was left alone to act as a control for the experiment.

"The results were dramatic." Dr. Rebecca Cole, lead author of the study, said. "The area treated with a thick layer of coffee pulp turned into a small forest in only two years while the control plot remained dominated by non-native pasture grasses."

In just two years, the area treated with coffee pulp had an 80% canopy cover, compared to just 20% of the control area. So, the coffee-pulp-treated area grew four times more rapidly. Like a jolt of caffeine, it reinvigorated biological activity in the area.

The canopy was also four times taller than that of the control.

Before and after images of the forest

The forest experienced a radical, positive change

via British Ecological Society

The coffee-treated area also eliminated an invasive species of grass that took over the land and prevented forest succession. Its elimination allowed for other native species to take over and recolonize the area.

"This case study suggests that agricultural by-products can be used to speed up forest recovery on degraded tropical lands. In situations where processing these by-products incurs a cost to agricultural industries, using them for restoration to meet global reforestation objectives can represent a 'win-win' scenario," Dr. Cole said.

If the results are repeatable it's a win-win for coffee drinkers and the environment.

Researchers believe that coffee treatments can be a cost-effective way to reforest degraded land. They may also work to reverse the effects of climate change by supporting the growth of forests across the globe.

The 2016 Paris Agreement made reforestation an important part of the fight against climate change. The agreement incentivizes developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, promote forest conservation and sustainable management, and enhance forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

"We hope our study is a jumping off point for other researchers and industries to take a look at how they might make their production more efficient by creating links to the global restoration movement," Dr. Cole said.


This article originally appeared on 03.29.21

@geaux75/TikTok

Molly was found tied to a tree by the new owners of the house.

Molly, an adorable, affectionate 10-year-old pit bull, found herself tied to a tree after her owners had abandoned her.

According to The Dodo, Molly had “always been a loyal dog, but, unfortunately, her first family couldn’t reciprocate that same love back,” and so when the house was sold, neither Molly nor the family’s cat was chosen to move with them. While the cat was allowed to free roam outside, all Molly could do was sit and wait. Alone.

Luckily, the young couple that bought the house agreed to take the animals in as part of their closing agreement, and as soon as the papers were signed, they rushed over to check in.

In a TikTok video, April Parker, the new homeowner, walks up to Molly, who is visibly crestfallen with teary eyes. But as soon as Parker begins cooing, “Baby girl…you’re gonna get a new home,” the pitty instantly perks up—all smiles and tail wagging.

“We are going to make her life so good,” Parker wrote in the video’s caption. “She will never be left all alone tied to a tree.”

@geaux75 The people that sold our house to us left behind their 10yr old dog they had since it was a puppy. I was so stressed we wouldnt get the house and something bad would happeb to her. We are going to maje her life so good. She will never be left all alone tied to a tree. 😭😢@roodytoots ♬ Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) [2018 Remaster] - Kate Bush

The video has been seen upwards of 4 million times. Countless people commented on how enraging it was to see a dog treated so carelessly.

“I’ve had my dog since she was 7 weeks old. She just turned 10 a few days ago. I literally cannot imagine doing this,” one person wrote.”

Another added: “The tears in her eyes…she doesn’t understand why they could just leave her, it breaks my heart. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to be pet owners.”

Subsequent videos show Parker freeing Molly from her leash and introducing the sweet pup to her husband, with whom she was instantly smitten. It’s clear that this doggo was both relieved and elated to be taken in by her new family.

Since being rescued, Molly has accompanied her new mom and dad everywhere.

@geaux75 Replying to @ohitscourtney ♬ Lucky Girl - Carlina


“She’s sticking to our side,” Parker wrote. “She won’t stop following us around. It’s so sweet.”

Parker has created an entire TikTok channel documenting her newfound pet’s journey, aptly named “Molly’s New Life,” showing Molly enjoying warm baths, plenty of treats, cuddles…all the finer things in life.

But what Molly seems to enjoy most of all is car rides:

@geaux75 Taking Molly to get a treat! Stay tuned!! #mollysnewlife #goodgollymissmolly ♬ original sound - Mollysnewlife 🐾🐕💗

And in case you’re wondering, the kitty is doing well, too, though it still prefers to stay outdoors.

Molly also has two indoor cat siblings who instantly welcomed her into the family. The video below shows one of them, Joofus, comforting a trembling Molly with kisses during a thunderstorm.

@geaux75 We had a big storm this morning and Molly was having a hard time. Joofus got on the bed and started comforting her. It was the sweetest thing. They got snuggled up and Molly went to sleep. Animals are amazing. #mollysnewlife #petsarefamily ♬ I Won't Let Go - Rascal Flatts

It seems that Molly has gotten the safe, loving home she’s deserved all along.

We know that animal abandonment is fairly common. According to The Zebra, almost 4 million dogs are either given up to shelters or abandoned each year. And still, it’s really hard to fathom how humans can treat such innocent creatures with such blatant disregard when they provide so much pure joy.

Thankfully, there are folks out there like the Parkers who know that taking care of animals like Molly is one of life’s most precious offerings.

Stay up-to-date with the rest of Molly’s journey by following her on TikTok.


This article originally appeared on 5.31.23

via Pexels

Work at it every single day folks.

The best advice isn’t always obvious, or else we would have thought of it ourselves. It often comes out of left field and can be counterintuitive. When it comes to marriage, the best advice tends to be centered around keeping a focus on the long game.

One of the best pieces of marriage advice I ever received was, “Buy her a bottle of shampoo from time to time without her asking.” Now, that doesn’t mean to get shampoo specifically, but just pick up something here and there to show you care and are thinking about her.



Marriage, if done right, is forever, so that often means taking a loss in the short-term to enjoy the long-term benefits of a happy life with someone. This is great as a concept but in practice can be pretty darn hard, day in and day out.

Hence why about 50% of American marriages end in divorce.

Reddit user thecountnotthesaint put out a call to the AskMen forum for some of the best marriage advice that “sounded absurd” but was actually helpful.

The question was inspired by some advice the Reddit user had received from their father, who claimed that a king-sized bed is the key to a happy marriage. "I'll be damned if that wasn't one of the best decisions we made aside from getting married and having kids," they wrote.

A lot of the advice was about being careful not to escalate small disagreements into larger arguments that could turn personal and ugly. A lot of people think that to have a successful marriage means being able to compromise and to let things go quickly.

Here are some of the best responses to the question, “What random marriage advice sounded absurd but was actually spot on helpful?”

1.

"Dad said 'Be kind even if you’re not feeling it. Maybe especially if you’re not feeling it.'” — semantician

2. 

"At my wedding, my wife's Grandmother offered so funny, weird, solid advice. She said, 'If you get angry with each other, go to bed naked and see if you can resolve it before you go to sleep.' So far, so good. Anniversary on Monday!" — drizzyjdracco

3. 

"The advice I’ve given people is this: if you can go grocery shopping with your person and have the best time ever, you have yourself a keeper. It’s all about making the best of the mundane things, because after years of being together, life becomes predictable. You’ll need to keep the spice going, regardless of what you’re doing. Source: married 15 years." — LemonFizzy0000

4. 

"My grandfather told me 'Never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.' What I learned is that he would always help my grandma and that is when they did their most talking." — t480

5. 

"When our kid was about to be born, someone told me to change the first diaper. If you can handle the first one, the others will be easy.' So I did. I didn't know what I was doing, so I asked the nurse at the hospital to teach me, and I changed the first several few diapers while my wife recovered from a difficult labor. The advice was correct, no other diaper was as disgusting as the first one. It got very easy and I never minded doing it, and my wife was really really grateful. And I loved that I could take on some of the parenting chores, since there was so much that she was the only one... equipped to provide." — wordserious

6. 

"Focus on tackling the problem, not each other." — bobbobbobbobbob123

7. 


"Don’t have too high of expectations. My dad told us that, but we found most of our early fights were when one or the other had unspoken expectations of the other or marriage. It is positively life changing to be married, and an amazing experience, but still life goes on."— nopants_ranchdance

8. 

"Marry him for who he is. Not his potential." — There-is-No-beyond

9. 


"My stepmom just passed away, and dad said something that has profoundly changed my attitude: 'The little things that annoyed me are the things I now miss.' So, like, yea for some reason she squeezes a massive glob of toothpaste which mostly falls into the sink basin and she doesn't wash away the toothpaste spit. If/when she's gone, that little constant annoyance that reminds me she's there will be gone too. Don't nag on the little things, rather, embrace them. (still, let her know she has made progress on other things I've pointed out, as I try to adapt to her wishes)." — drewkungfu

10. 

"Say thank you for day to day things, even taking out the trash, sweeping the floor, or folding laundry. Audibly hearing thank you reinforces the feeling of being appreciated." — BVolatte

11. 

"Randomly give your partner a cold beverage on a hot day. It's the little things that show you care." — Purple12Inchruler

12. 


"You don't just marry her, you marry her whole damn family."
— crazypersn

13. 

"One of my colonels told me: 'Just buy two damn pizzas, instead of arguing over the toppings.'"— MgoBlue702

14. 

"Be honest. Don't lie to your partner." — Mikeydeeluxe

15. 

"Don’t marry a woman whose dad calls her 'princess,' because she probably believes it. Much to his regret, my brother ignored this advice from our dad." — Toadie9622

16. 

"My fiance always says that 'just because' flowers are the best kind of flowers." — agaribay1010

17. 

"My Gramps who was married for over 50 yrs said: 'tell her you love her every single day.' Kind of obvious, but I definitely took it to heart." — sorellk

18. 

"Love isn’t about having 'nice feelings for each other.' It’s about acting for the betterment of someone else, even if you don’t feel like it. Emotions will change. Your willingness to treat your spouse a certain way doesn’t have to." — sirplaind

19. 


"Bill Maher said "The three most important words in a relationship aren't 'I love you', they're 'let it go.' Oddly, this has proven to be some of the best relationship advice I've ever heard."
— KrssCom


This article originally appeared on 05.30.22

Joy

Photographer doesn't force young girls to smile in photos and the results are powerful

“Allow girls to show up, take up space and not smile if they don’t want to.”

two girls in shirts posing for photo

The expectation to put on an air of happy, fun, pleasant nonconfrontation through baring teeth, otherwise known as smiling, is something many, if not most, women know very well. What’s more, this pressure is often introduced to women at a very early age.

And obviously, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with naturally being a happy, smiling person, issues arise when kids are taught that being themselves, just as they are, isn’t acceptable.

That’s why people are so impressed with North Carolina-based photographer Brooke Light’s (@bdlighted on TikTok) hands-off approach when it comes to taking pictures of young girls.

Her philosophy is simple, but oh so poignant: Allow girls to show up, take up space, and perhaps most importantly, not smile if they don’t want to.


Light posted a video showing some of her recent portraits, and truly, the work speaks for itself. Each of the girls’ distinct, unique personalities shine in these black-and-white images. Plus the lighting is moody and artsy and cool as hell. So much better than a forced, cheesy, smiling pic.

Take a look:

@bdlighted never underestimate the power of a photoshoot for your kids confidence #moodymini #kidsphotographer #childrensphotography #portraitphotographer #confidenceboost #kidsconfidence #familyphotoshootideas #familyphotoshoots #studiophotography #blackandwhitephoto #girlpower #girlempowerment #donttellmetosmile #momsofgirls #girlmom #greenscreen ♬ Little Girl Gone - CHINCHILLA

Comments began flooding in commending Light for how she authentically portrayed the girls as individuals, rather than producing cookie-cutter images of them.

“I love how they are not trying to be anything ‘extra’ just their own raw and savage selves,” one person wrote.

Another added, “I can feel their power through my phone.”

Light redirected the praise toward her clients, saying, “They are even more amazing in person! Like that vibe you feel is ALL THEM. I’m just there capturing it.”

For many women who had their own memories of being told to smile for photos, seeing the images had a profound effect.

“CHILLS! This healed something in me. Thank you.” one person commented.

“The Sears family photo trauma was REAL” wrote another.

And for the record, Light doesn’t make boys smile either. Here’s the proof in her follow-up video:

@bdlighted these mom's got me blushing in my DMs 🫣📸 I've never had my creativity or my photography validated so much in my life. thank you for the outpouring of love on these photos this week. it's meant more than you can ever know. #boymom #boymoms #moodymini #familyphotoshoots #familyphotoshootideas #portraitphotographer#studiophotography#kidsphotographer#kidsconfidence #childrensphotography #greenscreen ♬ Area Codes - Kali

In the post, Light shared how touched she was by the overwhelmingly positive response.

“I’ve never had my creativity or my photography validated so much in my life. Thank you for the outpouring of love on these photos this week. It’s meant more than you can ever know,” she wrote.

Imagine that…celebrating others for their authentic selves, then being celebrated yourself. Now that’s something worth smiling for.


This article originally appeared on 6.2.23