Ten-year-old Lauren Burns has embarked on an impressive endeavor in order to increase the availability of antiracist children’s books and books penned by Black authors. Using donated funds to purchase the reading materials, Burns will stock up Little Free Libraries across Oak Park in an effort to encourage empathy and understanding. 

Or in Burns’ own words: “To help not just the community, but the world know about how unfairly people are being treated.” 

An impressively resourceful young person, Burns has set up a GoFundMe to purchase the books and started a blog to document her progress. She has amassed $1,140 through her internet campaign, far surpassing her original goal of $500. Her friends have rallied around her to help.

“I was actually super grateful for one of their parents, because they donated $100,” said Burns. “It was a really big donation.”

She has also researched authors, vetted reading materials and reached out to knowledgeable adults for recommendations. Her favorite book is Jelani Memory’s “A Kid’s Book about Racism.” She said she plans to buy several copies of it.

Burns said she was inspired to do the book-sharing initiative while watching a news broadcast on television about two months ago. 

“They said lots of children – even in wealthy neighborhoods – don’t have books or don’t have access to books,” said Burns. “So, I thought this was one little way I could help with that.”

The project is anything but little, contributing to manifold social causes that extend beyond increasing accessibility to reading materials. The books Burns has earmarked are age-appropriate educational tools that help children understand the damaging effects promoted through racist ideologies, as well as the merits of antiracism. 

“I have been amazed at the thinking, the reasoning behind it,” said her mother Charisse Burns. “She really feels deeply about a lot of things and she loves to try to make the world a better place.”

She is also conscious of where to purchase, choosing to patronize independent shops including the Book Table and AfriWare Books, a Black-owned bookstore in Maywood.

Burns plans to deposit multiple books across “20 to 50” Little Free Library locations in Oak Park, including the one outside William Hatch School, 1000 N. Ridgeland Ave., where she attends fourth grade. So far, she has purchased about 25 books.

Burns’s graphic design tutor, Oak Parker Tree Havener, helped her create flyers to spread awareness of her antiracism literature campaign. 

“We’re just going to be putting them around the community, but I’m going to get permission from [Oak Park village] hall because you can’t post lots of stuff around the community without asking,” she told Wednesday Journal. 

Despite all her big ideas and her tender age, Burns handles her philanthropic ventures with the acumen and gumption of someone more than twice her years. Her parents credit her teachers as well as the community for supporting and encouraging Burns, who last year organized a school-wide fundraiser to help immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

“We’re very proud of her that she’s thinking of other people,” said her father David Burns. “And that she’s not afraid to do something.” 

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