Today’s post features e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Never Counted Out’s project to provide “600 Books of Hope” for Uvalde children. All of us felt sick to hear of the mass slaughter of children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in May. We wished we could do
something for that traumatized community. San Antonio children’s author, filmmaker, and youth activist e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (www.eecharlton-trujillo.com) felt much the same, but found inspiration after reading about Uvalde public librarian Martha Carreon who decided to continue with story hour scheduled for the day after the shooting.
When Trujillo shared this with children’s author and fellow literacy activist G. Neri, the two discussed how to convert their feelings of hopelessness into something productive. “We could give money, sign petitions, and vent our outrage, but it didn’t feel like enough,” Neri said. “We needed to focus on the kids.”
Through Trujillo’s nonprofit Never Counted Out, they put out an appeal to the children’s book world called #600BooksOfHope. The original goal was to give every child in Robb Elementary School a new book, so they would know others supported them. Soon the goal expanded to an additional 1,300 books, one for every elementary school child in town. As books began to arrive, Never Counted Out expanded their request to included middle grade, YA, board books and graphic novels, hoping to gift every child in the city with at least one book of hope. Because there wasn’t one child who wasn’t impacted by the horrors of that day.
THEN. . .
The response has been tremendous! Authors, illustrators, educators, and book lovers from all over the U.S., from Canada, from the UK, and from France have sent children’s books—their own or favorites by others. “This experience has reminded me of the power of what we can do collectively when we might feel we can do so little on our own,” Trujillo said. “Story allows us to seek refuge, to feel seen, to feel inspired – it also provides a way to reclaim our own narrative.” (I hope e.E. included their own children’s books in the collection: her just released picture book LUPE LOPEZ, ROCK STAR RULES; her middle grade novel, prizefighter en mi casa; and her FAT ANGIE Young Adult novels. )
Trujillo’s belief in the power of story and young people was the focus of the award-winning documentary At-Risk Summer which acted as the launching point for founding Never Counted Out. An organization dedicated to access to books and creative mentorship.
There has also been a great response from publishers. BiblioKids, Candlewick Press, Charlesbridge, Chronicle, Cameron-Kids Abrams, Little Brown, MacMillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, Pesi Publishing, Simon & Schuster, and others have sent numerous cartons of their books for free.
Gia Gordon, COO for Never Counted Out says, “From publishers to partnerships with nonprofits Family Service, Reading Is Fundamental, the educational group Edmentum and others, we are witnessing in real-time the power of what people believe story can do. It’s remarkable.”
AND NOW. . .
Never Counted Out hopes to work with the Uvalde school district and public library to host a day of free author and illustrator visits for school age kids followed by a day for book distribution and author meet and greets. While there are a lot of moving parts, the 600 Books of Hope team is offering, as Trujillo says, “their time in service of the young people. To honor those that were lost at Robb Elementary School and empower those who remain through literacy and tools of storytelling.”
Because children’s books can create hope and healing in the face of all kinds of injustices and disasters. 600 Books of Hope has shown us there is something we can do. If you want to support the efforts of #600BooksOf Hope or would like more information, visit: https://www.eecharlton-trujillo.com/600booksofhope
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Gia Gordon are authors and the cofounders of Never Counted Out, which seeks to empower at-risk youth through book access and the arts. Never Counted Out has conducted other book donation projects in response to need or disaster such as #KidLitForCampFire in the wake of one of the deadliest fires in California history and Project Pulse after the tragic shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. To learn more about them go to https://belatina.com/combats-pain-through-expression-voice/ Instagram: @nevercountedout_nonprofit
G. Neri is the Artist Program Coordinator for #600BooksOfHope. He is the Coretta Scott King honor-winner for his YUMMY:THE LAST DAYS OF A SOUTHSIDE SHORTY and GHETTO COWBOY. GHETTO COWBOY, adapted as “Concrete Cowboy” starring Idris Elba, debuted at #1 on Netflix in 2021. In 2017, he was awarded the first of two National Science Foundation grants that sent him to Antarctica which has inspired two forth coming books for middle graders.