February 18, 2021

Dear Raising A Reader Family,

It is hard to believe that we are one month into this New Year and that it is already February.

At Raising A Reader we are proud to celebrate Black History Month with you by highlighting the thoughtful and impactful work of our partner affiliate, Seattle Public Library, and a wonderful book in our collection, Let Freedom Sing,  written  and illustrated  by  Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

Michelle Sioson Hyman, SVP, Raising A Reader

Before we get to those highlights, I wanted to share a story. A long, long time ago, I was an AmeriCorps VISTA in a small city in Montana. It was during a time when I, as a Filipino American, would walk into a restaurant and heads would turn and mouths would drop because seeing someone who was non-white was so out of the norm. I brought up this experience with my AmeriCorps supervisor and she shared a story of her family going on a trip to New York with her three-year old. It was the first time her little girl had ever traveled outside of Montana. They arrived at the airport, and her daughter pointed to a Black man and shouted, “Mommy, why does that man look like chocolate?”

I start off this Bookmark with this story as we celebrate Black History Month because for us, like for so many of you; celebrating Black history and Black lives isn’t about a special month or day, but it is part of our DNA. RAR was founded over 20 years ago to address the gaps created in equitably serving families because of the systemically racist prenatal, health and wellbeing, and education American infrastructures. We ensure that our books and materials reflect the diverse racial backgrounds, cultures, religions, geographic locations, and settings where we serve children across the country. The carefully curated collection is designed to provide children with both a window to the world that surrounds them and a mirror of the world that they know. We know that we will always have room to grow and learn, which is why we are in the midst of conducting our own book audit of which we will share our findings with you later this spring.

Though not in these exact words, the mother of the little girl told me she wished she had the resources at the time to provide her child a window that looked beyond her own families lived experiences. I’m proud to be part of an organization and network that does just that.


Michelle Sioson Hyman
Senior Vice President, Program and Partnerships
Pronouns: she, her  â€‹

Network News

RAR and Radical Collaboration – A Whole New Platform
Coming Thursday, February 25!

Michelle Torgerson,
CEO, Raising A Reader

Adeola Whitney,
CEO, Reading Partners

Michelle Torgerson, RAR CEO, and Adeola Whitney, Reading Partners CEO, will come together to discuss Social Justice Day (February 19) and to celebrate Black History Month. This is the first video conversation Michelle will hold each month with literacy partners, and industry and community leaders. Raising A Reader’s Radical Collaboration will cultivate conversations about early childhood learning. By inviting leaders to share their expertise, Raising A Reader’s focus is exploring the connection between the value of literacy and the everyday world.

The debut conversation will explore why literacy is a social justice issue and why representation in children’s books matters. For  more information about Reading Partners, visit their website at www.ReadingPartners.org.

Follow us and watch the conversation on all RAR social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Save the Date: Thursday, February 25, 12 pm Pacific/3pm Eastern


FSRP Starter Pack

FSRP Gets an Extension!
The Family Shared Reading Program Extension Pack  is a new compliment to the Family Shared Reading Program Starter Pack (formerly labeled Fabulous Fall Family Pack) and is designed to expand on the Family Shared Reading Program Starter Pack by providing books and resources for your children and families. The Extension Pack includes a curated set of 6 high quality, bilingual books that incorporate a variety of genres; a Raising A Reader Response Journal and a Family Learning Calendar designed to provide three months of learning activities (Phonics, Comprehension, Vocabulary, Writing, Mathematics, STEAM, Health & Wellness) that make the most out of everyday family moments.   Families also have access to the Raising A Reader website where they can download printables, view read alouds for each storybook in the pack, and view videos that support shared reading time.

For Implementers:
The Family Shared Reading Program Implementer took kit for the Extension Pack is an innovative way to support children and families as they develop learning routines together.   The kit contains teacher tools that include a copy of all 6 books in the Family Packs as well as downloadable Storyguides for each title, a puppet to support online/in-person engagement and learning, the Family Learning Calendar, and access to training focused on engaging families and motivating families in a virtual/hybrid/in-person environment.

For more information, see our shop site.


More Dates Set for Virtual Coordinator Training!

Registration is now open for Raising A Reader’s Virtual Training Cohorts in April, August and October!

We have converted the traditional 2-day intensive in-person training into a 4-week virtual model consisting of self-paced course work and weekly live sessions. Each week, participants will work independently to complete a 60-90 minute module prior to attending a 60-minute virtual live session with RAR staff and the other participants. Watch this video to get an overview of the training.

The training is specifically designed for program Coordinators and is appropriate for Coordinators from new Affiliates, Coordinators from established Affiliates who have recently taken on the Coordinator role, as well as any previously trained Coordinator who feel they would benefit from a refresher. Per our train-the-trainer model, this training is not designed for Implementers and most of the information is focused on the Coordinator role.

Time, Dates and Registration:

All live sessions for 2021 Virtual Coordinator Training take place on Thursdays during the 4-week training cycle at 12 pm PT:
12 pm PT | 1 pm MT | 2 pm CT | 3 pm ET

VCT Cohort 2: Second Quarter 2021
April 12-May 6: Register here.
Registration closes Monday, April 12 at 5 pm PT.

VCT Cohort 3: Third Quarter 2021
August 2-26: Register here.
Registration closes Monday, August 2 at 5 pm PT.

VCT Cohort 4: Fourth Quarter 2021
October 18-November 11: Register here.
Registration closes Monday, October 18 at 5 pm PT.

Course materials will be emailed to participants a week prior to live sessions each Thursday.

Promising Practices

Getting Back to Rotation – February Town Hall Coming February 26!    

For months we have heard about a potential “return to the classroom” and now it’s finally here!   Schools everywhere are considering hybrid and in-person operations after a year of distance learning.   With the return to the classroom comes the return of the Red Book Bag rotation for many programs across the country.   Get ready to start rotation once again by hearing best practices from RAR and RAR Affiliates during the February Town Hall, entitled: Getting Back to Rotation!  

Sherry Granberry, Wayne County Public Library (NC), will share how she continues to connect with parents and provide meaningful workshops. Donna Beedle, AZCEND (AZ), has successfully implemented a drive thru and provided resources to continue rotating red bags in the community.

Register here for the RAR Town Hall Meetings.

Business Behind The Books

RAR: Reflecting Families We Serve  

As Raising A Reader and other literacy and nonprofit organizations across the country celebrate achievements by Black  and African American  people  for Black History Month, consider  assessing  your RAR book collection to ensure the families see themselves in the books within your  inventory. As an organization, we remain committed to equity and inclusion and are conducting a book audit of our own  to  ensure our Affiliates have access to books that  reflect  the families they serve. Take time this month to  review  and see if you need to add any additional  RAR  collections to ensure your  titles are  reflective of the families and caregivers you serve. Consider adding any of the  sample  collections below!  For more, please see our current  Product Catalog.  

  • Multicultural (ages 3-4, PreK, Kinder + School Age)  
  • African American (PreK, Kinder + Grade 1)  
  • Arabic (all ages)  
  • Exceptional Diversity (all ages)  
  • LGBT Diverse Families (all ages)  

If you have questions, or need assistance, simply email us at  rarinquiry@raisingareader.org.  

Research Roundup

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion: Seattle’s “Loud at the Library” Collaboration

CiKeithia Pugh (left) is Early Learning Program Manager at Seattle Public Library. Brooke Doyle (right) of OCLC is Project Coordinator for WebJunction

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion will look different for every community. Efforts toward greater equity are deeply rooted in understanding the distinct needs of communities and an organization’s response to those needs.  CiKeithia  Pugh from RAR  Affiliate,  Seattle Public Library, co-published an insightful article about their quest to listen and respond to specific needs in their community. “To reach equity, institutions must share power by forming relationships with people who have not had a seat at the table before and begin to listen to new voices. What emerges from those relationships informs the design of library programs and services.” Read more on the new  storytime  program at their library that resulted from these community conversations:    Equity, Diversity, Inclusion: Seattle’s “Loud at the Library” Collaboration.    

From the RAR Bookshelf

Raising A Reader  highlights  Let Freedom Sing,  written  and illustrated  by  Vanessa Brantley-Newton,  as part of our Black History Month celebration.  This title is published by Blue Apple Books.  

Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person’s life. When she read  Snowy Day  by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life and has made her into the artist she is today  (Goodreads). Other titles in our collections enriched by her  artistry,  such as  The Hula-Hoopin‘ Queen and  Mary Had a Little Glam,  invite  readers to imagine themselves in the pages of the story.

In  Let Freedom Sing,  her candid  images illuminate anew the inequality that affected Americans, young and old. With an introduction by Ruby Bridges and text to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine,” Newton’s rich, mixed-media illustrations create a vivid message of hope  (Goodreads).  

Instead of the traditional read aloud that normally accompanies many  of our featured  titles, we invite you to  engage your little ones in this  Read and  Sing-along with Education Through Music teacher Antione  Dolberry  here.  

RAR Webinars

Coordinator Training Now Virtual
Registration Now Open for

Town Halls Now Monthly
Register here for 1st Quarter Dates!

Watch our recent webinars:
RAR Implementer Training
Family Shared Reading Webinar
FSRP Family Learning Circle App

Partner Resources: PD and E-Learning

Campaign  for Grade Level Reading Learning Tuesdays Register here |   3 PM ET
National Family Support Network Webinar Wednesdays Register here | 2:30 PM ET