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Provo 4th grader raises money through lemonade stand for inclusive library books

Posted at 10:15 PM, Sep 23, 2021

PROVO, Utah — A Provo elementary student has inspired her school to revamp its library, bringing in books never found on the shelves until now.

While Emi Kim hoped to simply spread a diverse, positive message at her own school, it has led to change in the entire district.

Kids can learn anything in a school library that they never knew before.

They're introduced to new characters, and follow those characters' journeys and experiences.

Emi, a 4th Grade Westridge Elementary School student, admired beautiful pictures in a book titled We Are Water Protectors Thursday afternoon.

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"I really like the illustrations in this book," she said, turning the pages.

Emi loves that particular collection, on display by one of the library entrances.

"This is also another favorite," she said, grabbing the book The Name Jar. "I have a lot of favorites. This one is about a little girl goes to America all the way from Korea."

Each story focuses on a theme that Emi has learned the hard way, in her real life.

The 9-year old is Hawaiian, Polynesian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.

"I've discovered a problem of not being treated equally just based on the way that you look," she said.

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Emi shared a story of a man who ignored Emi and her mother in a grocery store, and pretended not to hear her mother when her mother spoke.

She began to better understand human nature.

"Humans-- we're afraid of what we don't know," Emi explained. "I think that's partly the reason why we treat people bad based on how they look or their culture, or things they learn about their culture."

Wanting to help people understand her cultural background, Emi brought the topic up with her school.

"She had a powerpoint and talked to me about how Caucasian characters and animals were the most represented in books, and how she really wanted to do something about that."" said Kim Hawkins, Prinicipal and Westridge Elementary.

Emi, her mother and aunt came up with a plan to bring in more diverse books to the library, but Emi knew bringing in the collection would cost money. To offset the costs, Emi launched a lemonade and baked goods stand.

She sold butter mochi, cupcakes, cookies, and lemonade. Not only did Emi earn enough money to buy 15 books for her school, she made so much that she purchased 60 more books for four other schools in the district.

After seeing this 4th grader's passion and drive, the Provo School district took Emi's plan one step further.

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"Our district has now kind of taken the leap that Emi started, and they have purchased the books for all of the elementary schools,"Hawkins explained. "So, all of our elementary schools now have these incredible books, because of Emi."

She said they plan to use the books for the school district's Diversity Week in November.

The book collection is named, "Emi's Books."

Emi hopes it'll help students learn things they never knew before, while making sure others just like her see their own selves reflected in the characters.

"I hope all kids are inspired to be able to make positive changes," she said.

Emi is planning a second lemonade stand fundraiser, to buy books about kids of all abilities.

That lemonade and bake stand will be set up on September 25 in front of Westridge Elementary School in Provo, from 11 am to 1 pm.