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Utah 4th-grader raises money for inclusive library books

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Posted at 10:32 PM, Sep 24, 2021

PROVO, Utah (KSTU) -- A Utah elementary student has inspired her school to revamp its library.

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

It all started when Emi took an interest in books that showed characters that look like her.

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

"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, principal at Westridge Elementary in Provo, Utah.

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, but she also had enough to purchase 60 more books for four other schools in the district.

After seeing Emi's passion and drive, the Provo school district took Emi's plan one step further.

"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."

The collection of books that Emi inspired the district to purchase is now 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.

This story was first reported by Lauren Steinbrecher on