Meredith McKinney encourages everyone to buy a book on-line and have it sent to Book’em, Attention: Meredith McKinney, 161 Rains Ave., Nashville, 37203 to be distributed to African-American boys and girls. File photo

From Staff Reports

It’s important for African-American children to read books with black characters, so former teacher Meredith McKinney started the Black Book Project.

McKinney volunteers for and is on the board of directors of the organization that receives and distributes donated books delivered to Book’em, Attention: Meredith McKinney, 161 Rains Ave., Nashville, 37203.

“People buy them on-line and have them sent to us,” McKinney said. “And we’ve had authors donate books.”

Last year, 1,386 books were donated during January and February. Her campaign deadline is the end of Black History month. Her 2021 goal was 500 books. Having greatly exceeded that, she reset her goal at 2,000 books by Feb. 28. Last week, the Black Book Project still needed hundreds of books to reach this year’s goal.

On-line, Amazon has a Black Book Project Nashville Wish List. McKinney encourages everybody to select, buy and have Amazon send a book through her program.

At her core, McKinney is a teacher, having taught in Huntsville, Ala. As such, she knows literacy is important.

Reading opens doors to all subjects. It really helps Black and brown children if a book’s subject is of interest to them and relates to their lives, especially if it includes people who look like them.

Remarkably, McKinney found that “In 2014, there were no books for children who look like us,” she said. “In the Book’em library there were no books with representation, or books with Black characters in them.”

Of course, she’s changing that. Book’em has provided thousands of books to groups serving underprivileged youth from cradle to age 18. Book’em partners with Metro Nashville Public Schools, Habitat for Humanity, Metro Public Health Department, Davidson County Juvenile Court, and more than 150 organizations to get books into the hands of kids who need them.

McKinney’s Black Book Project supports Book’em. Neither are part of Metro Public Schools, but McKinney’s day job is as a Community Achieves Program specialist for Metro schools. She supports school coordinators who are leveraging partnerships between schools and their community including businesses, churches and national associations — the NAACP is among them — which provide non-academic support such as food, school clothing, supplies and, among other things, mental health services. Four years ago, McKinney was a pre-K family involvement specialist to get parents involved in their children’s education.

Born in Nashville, she’s a “proud HBCU advocate” who earned her bachelors’ degree in early childhood development at Oakwood University, a private, historically black Seventh-day Adventist university in Huntsville.

She furthered her education at Alabama A&M University where she graduated with a masters degree. McKinney and her husband, Luther, have two children, age five and seven. The family virtually attends Riverside 7th Day Adventist Church.