York County women organize book drives, reading sessions in response to Central book ban
Last Sunday, JJ Sheffer opened her front door and found — to her surprise — two Amazon packages containing children's books.
Only two hours later, the Manchester Township resident could barely open the door — as a vast sea of literature was spilling off the side of her front porch.
What's the commonality? All of those books had appeared on Central York School District's list of banned diversity resources.
“I've just always felt very strong that reading books is so important, especially for kids. It's how we understand the world around us," Sheffer said. “If you want to send some books, we will get them in the hands of people in the district."
Since the news surrounding Central's controversial decision to ban a four-page list of books, documentaries and articles by or about people of color, the list has garnered national attention.
Although the district reversed course Monday night and unanimously voted to drop the ban, people like Sheffer aren't slowing down.
With the hundreds of books she's collected, Sheffer is hosting a live reading session from 10 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. on Sunday at her home, located at 131 Haybrook Drive.
Fourteen volunteers — all voices of people of color and people from the LGBTQ community — will take turns in 15-minute increments reading storybooks from the list to any child and parent who wants to listen.
Afterward, any family can take a book for free. Any leftover books from Sunday's event will go straight into local little free libraries in the Central York School District.
Interested individuals who wish to send Sheffer a book can visit https://bit.ly/3kIuXcx and ship books to 131 Haybrook Drive, York, PA 17406.
Sheffer, whose grandfather David Gotwalt passed away recently, was motivated to turn her anger and grief into productive work.
“Every night, I stay up real late opening up boxes and sorting books and just feeling hopeful," she said. “All I wanted to do was put some books in my little free library and here we are."
Sheffer isn't the only York County resident motivated to educate young minds through the power of literature. Former preschool teacher Hannah Shipley has her own plans to put books in the hands of children.
Shipley started her own wishlist on Amazon of all books found on the banned resource list. Soon, she caught the attention of "I Am Rosa Parks" author Brad Meltzer, who promoted her book drive.
“Every 'I Am Rosa Parks' book in the country is coming to me," Shipley said. “Every time we get a shipment, it's utter chaos."
A book distribution event is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Cousler Park, located at 922 Greenbriar Road. Any family in the Central York School District is welcome to take as many free books as are available.
Drawing attention using social media platforms like TikTok, Shipley said individuals from 25 different states have sent books.
“I have a lot of new friends. I think I've had more than 100 people offer to help open boxes, to organize and to clean my house so I could focus on the books," Shipley said. "There's no limit, no caveat, no catch — come and get these books.”
This article was updated to reflect Shipley's correct surname.
— Reach Tina Locurto at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.