National Read a Book Day is September 6, and a Houston-born Girl Scout Gold Award winner is encouraging people to broaden their horizons with their choices thanks to her Diverse Book Club.
Esha Garg was a lifelong Girl Scout when she began her Gold Award project as a high school student at The Village School in 2020. An avid reader from a young age, she wanted to make it possible for others to expand their reading selections to take in many cultures.
“I never saw a little girl in a book like me. There were no little brown girls,” she says. “It’s important because it creates a sense of welcoming, that it’s okay to be the person you are. It increases your self-confidence and empathy. I was part of a troop that had people from all different kinds of cultures, and it helped dissolve barriers between us. There’s a lack of diversity in schoolbooks because they’re so dedicated to the western canon.”
Garg’s path started small by building a Little Free Library, but she eventually helmed curriculum changes at her school. English and History courses embraced suggestions for teaching more books from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and women’s perspectives.
“The Gold Award is all about sustainability in the community,” she says. “If I could start a project at my school, it would be something that new students could be a part of every year. Teachers were open to teaching different aspects of history and creating new avenues for other voices to be heard.”
Such a project comes during a profound backlash against diversity in school libraries. Driven by conservative conspiracies regarding “critical race theory,” librarians and teachers have seen books dealing with race, LGBT issues, and the labor movement pulled from their shelves
at the order of the state government or following fanatical complaints from parents who feel such books are inappropriate for children.
In such an environment, actively pursuing diversity in reading material is a powerful action. Interested parties can visit DiverseBookClub.com
to find recommendations and join the newsletter. This year’s entries include Wings of Ebony
by Houston author J. Elle, Crying in H Mart
, a story about growing up Asian-American by Michelle Zauner, and Aru Shah and the End of Time
, part of the Rick Riordan Presents series dealing with Hindu mythology.
Meanwhile, Garg graduated as valedictorian from The Village School this year and has since moved onto Yale to study ethics, politics, and economics. She carries the lessons about community she learned in the Girl Scouts with her as the project grows.
“Once you are reading, encourage others,” she says. “Reach out to your friends and read with them. Girl Scouts inspired me to get started. All students should be interested in taking action in their community, even if it’s just being a more open-minded person. Make an effort to read a book from a different genre, maybe one with an author on the cover who has a different skin tone than you.”