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Unifying America: Arlington Native's Diverse Library Project Reaches All 50 States

ARLINGTON (CBS) - When Sarah Kamya returned home to Arlington last spring during the coronavirus lockdown, like many of us, she spent a lot of time walking outside.

The NYC public school counselor passed by several Little Free Libraries in her neighborhood and discovered they were missing something.

"I noticed… that there were just a lot of books that didn't have diverse characters and didn't talk about other topics," she said.

With some help from her family, she installed the first Little Free Diverse Library in the front yard of her parent's home. There are classic books for kids like The Snowy Day and newer titles like Talulah The Tooth Fairy CEO.

"She's the boss. Her and Mrs. Claus get drinks and they hang out in the North Pole," Sarah explained.

There are also books tackling tougher topics for adults like, "So You Want to Talk About Race."

"It sends that message that we are always learning and we want to get better and we want to move this country in a direction of understanding and acceptance."

Sarah was also motivated by a conversation she had with a preschooler she cared for a few years back who never seemed to warm up to her.

"One day in the car I was like, 'Why don't you like me?' She just said, 'Because of your skin.' I had honestly never felt that way before," Sarah said.

That painful exchange turned into a teaching moment for that child and her family. It also had a deep impact on Sarah and it was part of the reason she started the library.

Looking to expand the book selection, Sarah started an Instagram page shortly after the library was installed, asking for donations. "People were sharing with friends and sharing with others, by the end of the week, I had $6,000," she said.

When her porch and dining room table were flooded with books, she decided to send some to friends all over the country. "It spread so far there is a Little Free Diverse Virginia, Little Free Diverse Maryland, Little Free Diverse Utah," she said, adding she now has books in all 50 states.

For 7-year-old Ela who lives across the street with her family, the books are just fun to read, but the importance of the message is not lost on the 2nd grader. "I think it's great to teach like, respect other cultures and things," Ela said.

"There's so much we don't talk about. There is so much still to learn about. I just think that if we can celebrate our differences… we can come together as one," Sarah said.

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