Diversity and Literacy with a Frugal Bookstore Field Trip
Diversity and Literacy with a Frugal Bookstore Field Trip
Reader’s note: this field trip took place in February 2020 before social distancing and masks were required.
Books and stories are a staple of childhood that do more than meets the eye for a child’s expanding imagination and developing mind. When a teacher or parent reads to a child, they’re learning more than essential literacy skills like vocabulary and letter recognition. When a child sees themselves – from their skin color, family dynamic, or first language – reflected on the page of a book, this consciously builds their self-awareness and self-esteem.
Story time in a Horizons classroom is a significant and consistent part of the day, with trauma-informed content and curriculum that is thoughtfully designed for the diverse community of children experiencing homelessness in Boston.
Longtime supporters of Horizons, law firm Brown Rudnick LLP generously donated a gift to bolster the literacy program across education centers earlier this year. Their sponsorship resulted in a field trip to Roxbury’s Frugal Bookstore back in February to purchase new stories for Horizons’ classrooms and curriculum. As education centers have slowly begun reopening with new health, safety and social distance protocols in place, teachers are gearing up to resume in-person read alouds for the children. They are eager to share the books they picked up from Frugal Bookstore, so relevant to conversations taking place in today’s cultural landscape and the diversity celebrated in Horizons’ classrooms.
The charming shop, situated on 57 Warren St, offers an eclectic selection of books including a bright and expansive children’s section. Local owners, Leonard and Clarrissa – welcomed Horizons teachers and staff with wide smiles and an extensive knowledge of popular titles colorfully lining their shelves.
“The children’s section has really grown over the years,” Clarrissa shared. “We’ve always done well with children’s books but the past few years it’s really taken off and they are by far our bestselling genre.”
Horizons teachers were beaming with excitement as they took in the wide variety of books, creating stacks of their favorites to narrow down for purchase. Each educator came with a specific objective in mind for what new stories, themes, characters, authors and content they wanted represented in their classroom bookshelves.
Ekvi, a preschool teacher in Horizons’ Roxbury education center, was adamant to find books with pictures of real children the kids could easily identify with. They also focused on books that handled big feelings to help their students navigate complex social-emotional challenges.
Isoke – ‘Izzy’ – a paraprofessional in Dorchester, sought out books that highlighted relationships with children and their fathers and was drawn to illustrated titles. “I’m a very visual person, and these books spoke to me both through their art styles and positive messages,” she explained.
Kimberly, a Universal Pre-K teacher in Jamaica Plain, focused on science and language for her students. “I have quite a few Spanish-speaking students, so I want to get a few more books for circle time and read alouds in their first language,” she explained. “I also have a background in environmental studies, so I’m looking for books that will help teach a unit about nature.”
Each teacher was provided $100 to purchase books for their classrooms and Frugal Bookstore graciously offered Horizons for Homeless Children a discount to support the literacy program and grant our educators the opportunity to get more books within the allocated budget.
Frugal Bookstore was selected as Horizons’ fieldtrip location by Shavon Drayton, Horizons’ Assistant Center Director as the local bookstore of choice due to its commitment to the community, personal service, and assortment of books that reflected the children in Horizons’ classrooms.
“We wanted the selection of books in our store to be representative of our community. Black and brown children and adults who are often the minority in popular literature are the majority on our shelves,” co-owner Clarrissa shared. “We strive to have a mix of books, and we’re always asking our customers for suggestions of what they’d like to see in the store.”
When Leonard and Clarrissa began their co-ownership of the shop back in 2008, they took a leap of faith in the business and community. Clarrissa came from a corporate background, previously working in the health insurance industry while her partner Leonard, having worked for the previous store owner, brought experience and an entrepreneurial spirit. Customers feeling represented and supported with the duo’s dedication of personal service has served Frugal Bookstore well over the years.
“We have a lot of repeat customers,” Clarrissa added with a smile. “We created a loyalty-based frequent buyer program in the store. We also do special orders for books we don’t have in stock. As long as it’s in circulation we can get it!”
One of Horizons teachers took Frugal Bookstore up on this notion and custom ordered a book for their classroom.
“Our customers introduce us to new books all the time, especially the teachers and schools who come in. We often take chances on different titles that resonate with us, too.”
The passion exhibited by Frugal Bookstore’s owners was tangible as the duo helped Horizons’ teachers find exactly what they needed around the store while providing suggestions based on respective goals and interests. With an extensive and personal knowledge of the books in stock, Leonard handpicked titles off the shelf and searched backrooms for multiple copies of requested books to support Horizons’ programming.
When asked what being a community bookshop means to them, Clarrissa’s answer was simple, yet resonating.
“We’re proud to have a variety of books that’s a true reflection of our customers.”
As Horizons’ teachers left the store, their shopping bags were near bursting with bilingual, culturally diverse stories for their students to read. As they passed by the translucent glass windows on their way out of the shop, their smiles radiated back in. One visit to the bookstore would surely mean hours of enrichment for the children who will experience the day’s selections in Horizons’ classrooms.
This piece was written by Andrea Drag, a regular contributor to Horizons’ Blog.