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Representation in Reading as Nevada kicks off Reading Week

Posted at 8:14 AM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 15:59:56-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Nevada Reading Week kicks off Monday and continues through Friday.

Reading week was created to encourage young readers, and this year's theme is "Catch the Reading Wave."

A local librarian and an author/illustrator told 13 Action News diversity and representation in reading is more important now than ever.

You may have heard the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but for many children, a book's cover can give readers a glimpse into the content within the pages. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, a book cover can have a greater impact than you may think.

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"Nevada reading week is really exciting because throughout the week, students are going to be encouraged to not only pick up a book, but to explore new books," said Watson Elementary School Librarian Jody Shervanick.

To celebrate, Watson Elementary will have a special theme each day this week.

Monday is "Hats off for literacy," Tuesday will be "Read to a furry friend" day, and Wednesday, students get a chance to jump into character, dressing up as their favorite character from their favorite book.

"Flashlight Friday, all the kids are going to be decked out in their VGK gear, and we're going to cut out all of the lights to the school and we going to have the kids read by flashlight," said Shervanick.

Reading week is a fun way to remind Las Vegas students that reading is fundamental, while also highlighting the disparities some kids may face by not having equal access to books.

So Shervanick, along with other educators, use sites like Donors Choose to give those students the materials they need.

"I can't tell you how many of my students say that they don't have books at home, so whenever we get donations, we're going to send them home with them," said Shervanick.

Diversity in reading material is important as well. That's why author and illustrator Acamy Schleikorn spends her time creating illustrations with varying skin colors, hair styles, and characteristics.

"I want to illustrate all kinds of people, all kinds of races, ethnicities, stories, backgrounds," said Schleikorn.

"I'm very passionate about making sure that children can see themselves in the work that I create, because it reflects the world that we live in," Schleikorn added. "Like we come in all kinds of shades, our hair is all kinds of textures. We're not a monolith, and I want to show that in my work."

Shervanick says that, as a librarian, she's seen first-hand what representation can do for a child — especially when it comes to reading.

"One of our classic favorites is (the book) 'Hair Love.' I had a little girl that said, 'Hey, she looks just like me,' and she specifically checked that book out because that book looked just like her. The kids get excited especially when they see themselves in the books, and they understand those stories," said Shervanick.

No matter your background, Shervanick says giving your child or teen access to reading material is essential to their success, and the education starts at home.

"Your No. 1 teacher isn't at school, it's mom and dad. They're the No. 1 readers; they're the ones that are going to encourage their kids to read. We're going to do our best, too — every teacher, no matter what — but it truly is a team effort," said Shervanick.