Posted 8 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021

UWL education student Samantha Griesbach raised $1,200 and donated 150 culturally responsive books to six schools near her hometown of Stratford, Wisconsin. Griesbach says she was inspired to act after watching social injustices dominate the news last summer.

UWL student donates culturally responsive books to Wisconsin schools

As an aspiring teacher, Samantha Griesbach watched social injustices dominating the news last summer and decided to do something about it.

Griesbach, a UW-La Crosse senior majoring in early childhood-middle childhood education, set out to raise as much money as she could, with the idea of donating culturally responsive books to schools near her hometown of Stratford, Wisconsin.

By the end of the summer, she had raised $1,200 and donated 150 books to six schools in her area:  Stratford Elementary, Auburndale Elementary, Marathon Elementary, Spencer Elementary, Edgar Elementary and Mountain Bay Elementary.

“My overall goal was to help create a foundation for a more culturally responsive, kind and compassionate generation,” she explains. “The support I received from everyone was overwhelming. This donation allowed each classroom in every school to have at least one new book in their room.”

A sampling of the culturally responsive books Griesbach donated to schools in her area.

Griesbach notes that she didn’t begin to learn about cultural responsiveness until college. By then, she realized how critical it was for students to be exposed to these themes at a young age. Recent social injustices, including the police killing of George Floyd, further inspired her to pitch in.

“After seeing these injustices and how the climate of our nation was, I thought I should do what I could to try to make a change and take action,” she says.” The best way I knew how to do this was by finding books that exposed children to cultures and perspectives they may not have been introduced to before and eliminating stereotypes involving race, religion, gender, etc.”

Griesbach has even used her book selections in her student teaching placement, reading to students and discussing how the books’ lessons can be used in everyday life.

Her students’ favorite books have included “I am Peace,” “I am One” and “I am Love” — part of a series by author Susan Verde.

There’s no telling how big of an impact even one book can make, she notes, especially at a time when children are developing their worldview and global perspective.

“Culturally responsive books, and books about kindness and compassion (in general), can be such an easy way to start a conversation and raise awareness with young children,” she says.