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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Children’s Literary Salon Video #1: REFORMA, Refugee Children, and Bringing Books to the Border

As you may recall, this past Saturday, January 9th I hosted my first Literary Salon here in Evanston. In spite of the fact that some of my attendees were at ALA while others stayed home to avoid the heavy snowfall, we had a showing of around 40-45 people.  The topic?  Refugee children held at America’s border.  Or, as the description read:

“Bringing Books to the Border: Jeff Garrett and the Refugee Children of the Rio Grande Valley”

When 70,000 children crossed the southern border into the United States it sparked a humanitarian crisis.  And until July of 2014 the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Department was unable accept donations of kids books to these children.  When that changed, local bookstore owner Jeff Garrett of Bookends and Beginnings worked as part of REFORMA’s Children in Crisis Project, to help bring children’s books to the unaccompanied refugee children currently arriving in the Rio Grande Valley.  Speaking about his experiences, Jeff touches on many of the issues surrounding the border today and what we can learn from those who are working with refugee children every day.

For the first time, I was able to livestream the event.  For the most part, it worked.  It was not without its glitches, of course.  The PowerPoint is difficult to make out, I believe, because I was at an angle and not facing it directly.  Also, I should have asked Jeff to repeat some of the questions he received since they were hard to hear on the video.

But all that aside, this is a remarkable talk.  Jeff clears up misconceptions, clarifies points, and really shines a spotlight on the amazing work that REFORMA is doing these days.  For anyone who believes in the importance of getting books into the hands of children, this is essential watching.  Enjoy.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Ooh, i will definitely have to take a look – our local AF base is getting kids soon, and I’ve already given them my contact info, but I would love to have some concrete ideas of how we (library) can help.

  2. Karen Coeman says:

    Hi Betsy, Wonderful to see Jeff Garrett´s work in your Salon. Is there any way you could post or share the power point? Warm wishes from Mexico.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yes, I’m working on some way of embedding it. In the meantime I’ll just forward it to anyone via email who wants it.

  3. Thanks, Betsy. It’s hard to think of a more urgent cause than this.

  4. Betsy,
    I am a school librarian in Las Vegas, NV…why should we send books to students who are not U.S. citizens? I don’t even get enough money to purchase new books for the students at my library. I have to keep fixing my old books to make them last longer for my students. I am tired of hearing about helping countries and people who hate the United States. We should help the low income schools in the United States first.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      As I am given to understand REFORMA and USBBY’s work here, the thought is that every child deserves at least one book, regardless of race, nationality, gender, religion, etc. Pretty sure refugee kids escaping bloodshed, terror, and horror in their native homelands aren’t hating on America. Giving each one of those kids one book is reasonable and necessary. If you watch the part of the video where Jeff explains where these books come from, I think you’ll find it informative.

      We can all agree that low income schools should be of the highest or priorities in the U.S. Considering that a lot of these kids are going to be ending up in those schools, a high tide raises all ships.