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United Way Blog

Creating Belonging through Books: The You Belong Book Project

In February 2023, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County launches the You Belong Book Project, a year-long celebration of cultural heritage and identity through children's books. As a part of the project, community members share stories they love in recorded videos available online. The You Belong Book Project kicked began during Black History Month 2023 and to date has had over 75,000 total viewers across 42 videos. The Black History Month themed videos included readings from four prominent Black women in the Western New York community: United Way of Buffalo & Erie County’s President & CEO Trina Burruss, Board Chair Rachelle Sat’chell Robinson, local bookstore owner Stephanie Peete, and local author Mia Burse. Beyond Black History month, a rich and intersectional group of readers helped to showcase themes such as school readiness, holidays around the world, mental health and LGBTQ+ Pride.

A year later, the You Belong Book Project continues as an evergreen resource for families, with new videos each quarter and spotlights of past videos commemorating Black History Month and beyond. The project also offers on-demand book drive lists for partners wishing to include promoting culturally relevant reading as part of their community engagement and impact.

A quality education begins with reading. When children are able to read to learn, they imagine more richly, develop a stronger vocabulary and engage in critical thinking. For United Way, increasing access to books is one way we help set kids up for future success. For Black History Month 2024, we encourage individuals in and outside of Buffalo & Erie County to check out our specially curated list of early childhood books and share a love of learning and education with young people in your life. 

To support this and other projects like it reach out to your local United Way