Pop-up library shares Black stories, diversity in children’s literature

Thumbs Up Reading gives access to over 1,000 books

In the shadow of conversations about social justice, communities across the country are facing a complex convergence of inequity and identity.

In Charlotte, unsung heroes rise — those who do good deeds out of a pure heart like sisters Pam White and Bridget Phifer.

They launched the Thumbs Up Reading library, and the initiative will give access to over 1,000 books to children and young adults.

“We are committed to efforts that both improve reading in low-income areas while also expanding access to high-quality children and teen books,” said Pam White, with Thumbs Up Reading.

Established in memory of the avid reader and life-long Charlotte resident Clyde Albert Phifer, the initiative hopes the books represent and empower children by recognizing the importance of diversity in children’s literature.

White said she can trace her family back in Charlotte at least to the early 1900s when her great-great-grandfather was a sharecropper on a nearby farm.

“This library is about the legacy that Clyde left for us, that’s the love of reading, reading for knowledge, reading for empowerment, reading for enjoyment,” White said.  “We know that reading opens the doors wide open.”

She said that there is no doubt about the positive influence books had on her past and present, and sharing stories with children can ignite their curious minds that will continue to grow their discovery and understanding for their future.

“We felt like it was our obligation to give that reading experience and have positive images, positive stories that are out there,” White said. “(These books) share the contributions of poets, inventors, artists and so much more that were African American, Black that looked like them and had challenges just like you.”

Like any good book, it’s all about exposing children, specifically children of color, to arts and culture, then equipping them with knowledge and tools to create for themselves.

“Erecting pop-up libraries in historically Black and brown communities of Charlotte is critically important; now more than ever,” White said.

A practitioner’s guide, released by the American Psychological Association, says a positive view of their racial and ethnic identity can be protective factors when children confront racism and discrimination.

Positive racial and ethnic identity is associated with positive self-esteem, which has direct implications for mental health.

“The books that have been donated show that this is love in action,” she said.

The pop-up library will provide a variety of children and teen books that represent a wide range of identities.

“Because of the social-political climate, there are people who are feeling a sense of urgency to civic duty,” White said. “We gotta move from just thinking about ourselves to getting back to thinking more like a collective community for the good of the community doing good things for the good of the community.”

This first pop-up library is located at Steele Creek A.M.E. Zion Church, and the family said that anyone can stop by to borrow a book or leave a book.

Family and friends stocked the library, and it’s stocked and ready to serve.

“I would like to see a sense of community come back,” White said. “I know we can.”

These sisters are focused on doing their part for the common good of everyone.

With all the challenges facing the community, it is obvious that White and Phifer are committed to making life better for youths in our area.

You can donate a book or pick one up at Steele Creek A.M.E. Zion Church,  1500 Shopton Road, Charlotte.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.