No food, no pets, no cameras, no radios.
“You can only bring what you can carry,” Bob Harada told the fifth-graders, standing at the front of their sunny classroom inside Boulder’s Flatirons Elementary School.
He wasn’t talking about an upcoming camping trip. He was painting a picture of the tough choices made by Japanese Americans — including his own parents — who were forced by the U.S. government to leave their homes for faraway internment camps during World War II.
Harada was one of a dozen volunteers who visited the school on a recent Friday as part of a program called Reading to End Racism. Run by YWCA Boulder County, the idea is to use storytelling to raise awareness about racism and discrimination, and encourage students to do something about it. Citing the current social and political climate, including a local incident earlier this month in which a white woman yelled racial slurs at a black college student, leaders say the program is as timely as ever.
“A lot of times kids feel like they don’t have the power to do anything and we’re coming in here to tell them you have the permission to do what’s right,” said Shiquita Yarbrough, the YWCA’s manager of community engagement and equity.
“By us coming into elementary schools, it’s giving the kids enough time to work on those skills because it’s not something that will change overnight,” she said.
While Reading to End Racism has been around in some form for years — an oral history dates the project’s inception to the 1990s — it’s expanding its reach this school year to 17 Boulder Valley schools, up from eight to 10 previously. The program visits participating schools once annually, with guest readers visiting every classroom to read and discuss a children’s book.