Wausau’s First UU Church Donates Children’s Books to Merrill Little Free Diverse Library
TINA L. SCOTT
In November 2020, Julie Trombley, former director of religious education (DRE) at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Wausau (First UU), had an idea for an Anti-Racism Story Time (ARS). She contacted Joni Hahn and Sally Schmidt at church, and they wholeheartedly supported the project. As was the case, in the middle of the year of COVID-19, they chose to start the ARS online, using Zoom. Thus, once a week, from November 2020, for 30 minutes, the children and their families gathered for an evening of storytelling around their computer.
“In the year of the pandemic, First UU was no different from other churches and organizations with the challenge of involving children and youth in church activities,” said Joni Hahn. “It was predicted that attendance for this online offering would be low as children were tired of having to attend everything online – from school to sports, clubs and church.”
“At First UU, the Anti-Racism Storytime team were thrilled to find 6-8 children who regularly attend the weekly ARS events,” she said. “Three of the participants and their families did not miss a single evening!
“The purpose of ARS is to help parents and caregivers explore important topics and open an ongoing dialogue with their children in age-appropriate ways, and generate rich family discussions,” Hahn said. Thus, each week, the ARS host read and shared a book “written or illustrated by or about Blacks, Natives and people of color that explored complex themes such as Indian residential schools, Hmong history. , The Great Migration, Immigrant Experiences and Significant Contributions to Society by People of Color.
Hahn said that some examples are the stories of Dr Patricia Bath, the inventor of the specialized laser used to remove cataracts; Clara Lemlich, a Ukrainian immigrant who led the strike of the textile workers; Katherine Johnson, a distinguished NASA mathematician; and Melba Liston, accomplished trombonist and musician.
The ARS hosts then led the children and their families in a conversation about the characters and events in the story and reflected on their own experiences, she said.
When Trombley left his role as DRE at First UU in March 2021, Hahn and Sally Schmidt agreed to continue the ARS until the end of May.
“By the end of this year’s story hour, attendees will have enjoyed 28 stories and a rich year of reflection,” said Hahn.
As a year-end finale, First UU decided that every child participating in Anti-Racism Storytime would receive a book to keep.
After hearing from Pastor Pat Schutz of the Our Savior Lutheran Church in Merrill and the Little Free Diverse Library (LFDL) that they started around the corner of the church, First UU decided to donate six books as well. anti-racist children at their little LFDL library.
“Stories, whether fictional or not, are a great way for us to learn difficult things and appreciate the diversity of our communities,” said Pastor Pat Schutz. “The LFDL books can help families and adults talk about racism, the ways in which whites can be allies of people of color, and they truly exemplify the goodness and beauty of all. “
“Together, the two churches are working towards the common goal of bringing diverse stories into the homes of families in central Wisconsin,” said Hahn. “And I hope this is the start of a collaboration between the two churches to try to support the work that needs to be done around diversity issues.”
We live in a small world, one two small so that issues of race and diversity divide us. It turns out that First UU’s Pastor Pat and Sally Schmidt both have homes on Washington Island in northern Door County, so they are “Island neighbors.”
“Sally and her family live in Wausau and spend the summer on the island,” Hahn said. “Sally will be offering a six-week anti-racism story hour for families at Red Barn Park on the island this summer.”
For families who wish to broaden their children’s horizons and introduce reading about diversity, in addition to borrowing books from Our Savior’s LFDL, Hahn recommends that families visit: www.theconscientkid.org. “The website has an excellent list of books written by and about people of color,” Hahn said.