‘Mobile librarians’ help connect APS students with other cultures

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Public Schools bus drivers have temporarily turned into mobile librarians for the district’s Books on Buses free book giveaway. Previously, students in the bilingual program were able to pick out books from their schools to take home with them. Since schools are closed, APS is bringing the mobile library to any student who is interested.

Rachel Altobelli, director of Library Services and Jessica Villalobos of the Language and Cultural Equity department came up with the idea for their departments to collaborate with the Transportation Department for this project. “We know that families and students sometimes prefer to read a paper book, so we wanted to keep sharing that with our students,” Altobelli said. “We want all of our students to have books that reflect them and their language, their culture and their beautiful selves.”

At least three buses travel around the district to different schools and drop off a bag with books and school supplies. The books range from being in both English and Spanish. “It really is about equity. If you take a look at APS and the population that we serve, these kiddos come from many different backgrounds and we are probably one of the most diverse districts in the nation,” Villalobos said. “If kids are speaking another language, we really need to validate their language and their culture.”

Former APS student Alexandra Jaquez said this program reignited her love for reading. “I was able to see myself through these books that usually I wouldn’t see myself in. You feel like you’re not alone in your situation. You feel that other people who are struggling the way you have.” Jaquez said. “It also helps you see outside of your own hardships and see there are other sides to the story.”

The books chosen are a result of research done based on reviews, award-winner lists, what’s popular, teacher perspectives and diversity. Venessa Urioste is the Educators Rising teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy. The course is a teacher pathway program for high school seniors who are interested in a career in education. The class is currently studying the impact that culturally relevant books can have on students and has even asked for copies of what books elementary students are receiving.

Urioste said the lack of representation can impact students who don’t see their heritage or community reflected in the books they read. “There are less than 10% of children’s books have a main character of color. There are more animals featured in children’s books than there are children of color,” Urioste said.

Altobelli and Villalobos said it made sense for them to open up the book giveaway to all students who are interested, since they all are learning virtually. “There’s nothing like having your own physical book, especially now that they have to learn online. We hope this also give them a break from looking at a screen all day,” Altobelli said.

For more information, contact Rachel Altobelli at rachel.altobelli@aps.edu or Jessica Villalobos at villalobos@aps.edu.

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