Transparency – Clarity – Responsibility
Books For Littles [BFL for short] supporters, readers, and contributors (including the founder of BFL and author of this statement, Ashia R.) are responsible for transparent and clearly stated missions, objectives, goals, and procedures.
Why this Statement of Accountability exists:
By maintaining foundational honesty, readers, patrons, sponsors, and featured makers (let’s just lump us all as ‘BFL’ers’) can easily identify if (and how) our actions benefit or harm them.
The three tenets of Foundational Honesty:
- Clarity helps BFL’ers who have been traditionally oppressed and targeted by similar organizations determine how trustworthy BFL resources are, and determine whether we are safe in participating in BFL online spaces.
- Transparency helps BFL’ers clearly identify if/when BFL is causing unintentional harm.
- Responsibility puts the onus on BFL’ers to solicit, acknowledge, and take action on feedback so we can feel confident that our voices make a difference.
BFL contributors (for now, that’s just me, Ashia), are responsible for letting BFL’ers know where and how to find this Statement of Accountability, as following:
- Social Media: Published on the BFL facebook group and our Patreon feed 1x/year.
- Website: Posted as a link from the BFL home page in the footer navigation.
- Email: Published at the bottom of each email newsletter.
- Accessibility: We strive to make this document accessible for members with disabilities. Please email Ashia if any part of the booksforlittles.com website or social media channels are inaccessible for you.
As the founder of BFL, I, Ashia Ray, an responsible for making the following info available and accessible.
At some point, I’d love to have fancy separate pages for these with images and such, but for the sake of getting it done, here’s a quick summary:
What we do: Books For Littles helps parents and educators raise the next generation of kind & brilliant humans.
Who we are: BFL’ers are a community of parents, educators, and grownups slated with influencing and raising the next generation of humans (ages 0-7). See the Participants section for more. We are, in general, progressive-minded and liberal, with an emphasis on learning, listening, and understanding, and inclusion.
We do not compete with organizations and individuals with aligning missions – we collaborate.
How we do: We focus on picture books for children ages 0-7 because BFL books must be vetted by real kids, and mine are in this age range. By using picture books to make hard conversations easier, and to introduce complex topics simply, we educate grownups, who then go on to have ongoing discussions with their littles and wider community.
The objectives of BFL, in order of priority:
- For humanity: To raise a kind and brilliant generation of leaders.
- For my family: To lead by example for my own sons. BFL is within the scope of what I can do while raising two small children, while unable to work outside the home because of my parental duties and disabilities.
- For my ego: I’ve determined BFL is the most effective method (within my personal ability) to fight injustice, mis-education, and suffering.
Goals – Long Term
FOR READERS: The BFL website will become an easy-to-search resource where parents and educators can find discussion topics, perspective, and picture books to educate young children.
FOR ASHIA: Financially, the website will provide a living wage to support my family. I plan to keep BFL going while I still have children interested in picture books, and am not sure whether I’ll hand it off or let it hang out dormant once my kids are older.
Goals – Short Term (2018)
FOR READERS: The BFL Facebook group is where I test out topics, book suggestions, methods of education, and public interest. It is also where I solicit feedback on what challenges parents and educators face, so I can learn what needs more research and what resources they need help finding. I am spending any free time I have on adding popular archived content to the website to make it easy to search and less labor intensive to respond to popular reader requests.
FOR ASHIA: I’m dedicating 2018 to streamlining the orchestrations of BFL to absorb less than 30 hours per week (I currently spend 35-55 hours per week on BFL.) What this probably looks like is lots of content on the website, archived posts scheduled for re-publishing on social media, and 1-on-1 personal requests only for higher-tier patrons.
Financially, I need to make a living wage from my work on BFL, or I will need to get a second job to support my family, and put BFL on hiatus. I hope to do that through our Patreon premium content, web ads, and affiliate links, and am avoiding partnering with publishers and sponsors since that opens a hornets’ nest of ethical issues.
How we measure success
I currently track the following to gauge the success of BFL topics and concepts:
- Website traffic
- Facebook group membership and activity, newsletter subscribers, and patreon subscribers
- The reactions, posts, and shares on each Facebook post
- Daily clicks, number of orders, and affiliate income from amazon orders made after clicking one of my affiliate links
- How many people and organizations are linking to BFL and sharing BFL posts and links.
- Comments, shares, and reactions on individual website posts and pages
- Anonymous Member feedback (disclosure of things they find challenging)
- Kind emails of solidarity
- Critical emails – both the ones that think what we do is evil, and those that agree with what we do, but think we’re doing it wrong.
Who participates, what they provide, and what they get out of it:
Ashia Ray: Founder & sole contributor to BFL:
BFL was founded by and is run by me, Ashia Ray (she/her). I’m a mother of two young boys. I am a multiracial (Chinese/Irish) cishet woman. I was raised by a white single mother (lapsed Catholic) in a lower-middle-class neighborhood with a religiously, ethnically, and racially diverse population through elementary school (age 9). I had occasional contact with my father (a Chinese immigrant from Malaysia, raised in a household that practiced Ancestor Worship/Buddhism), and more contact with my Cantonese-speaking grandparents (who did not speak English) than with my father. Through early childhood, my mother and I lived with meager finances and eventually gained financial stability. My mother maintained an open home with renters, friends and family of various ethnicity, and many rescue animals.
All of my teachers, with the exception of one Black woman, were white. In my adolescence, we moved to an upper-middle-class, almost exclusively white neighborhood for middle and upper school, where we struggled financially. All of my teachers were white. I attended undergrad at Worcester PolyTech for two years, double-majoring in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering, with a minor in creative writing, then transferred to Clark University, majoring in Studio Art, with a concentration in photography and graphic design. All of my professors, with the exception of one East-Asian woman, one East-Asian man, and one South Asian man, were white. I dropped out of engineering school because of social and learning disabilities. I can’t do group projects, can’t learn from traditional spoken lectures, and have executive functioning disabilities that make complex handwritten calculations difficult. I learned I am autistic in adulthood.
Beyond undergrad classes, I do not have any formal writing or critical literature training. I have never been formally educated on library science, early (or any) childhood education, social justice, political science, disability rights, running an organization, or website design and publishing.
All writing in BFL spaces (unless otherwise specified) is filtered through my bias and perspectives.
By the medical model of disability and traditional standards of ‘expertise’ (whatever that means), I am completely unqualified to run BFL. By the social model of disability, and the goals of the grassroots social rights movement as I understand it in terms of equity, I am sufficiently qualified because of my lived experience. Also – no one else is doing this, so you’re going to have to settle for me until someone better comes along.
Contributions: I provide 35-55 hours each week of book research in and out of the library, read-aloud screening with my two boys, conceptual research via the web, podcasts, and non-fiction books, blog writing, editing, html coding, website maintenance, email management, responses, reader consultations, social media administration, patreon updates, facebook daily reviews, book list management, personal request responses, and accounting toward the mission of BFL. I also pay for the website domain and design fees, childcare and school tuition while I’m working, electricity, library travel expenses, book expenses, software, email and newsletter costs.
Benefits: At the time of this writing, I make roughly $3.83/hour from patreon, amazon links, consulting, and ad revenue, much of which goes into the costs associated with maintaining BFL and/or contributions for nonprofit organizations whose values BFL aligns with. I plan to have a fully transparent financial document online at some point, but as you can see – I’m kinda busy right now.
Sometimes I interview a book publisher, writer, or illustrator and create a page on the website highlighting their work. These pages will disclose how I obtained the books they’ve created and whether or not they were provided to me for free, and quotes and images used by them, with permission.
Contributions: Makers submit written answers to interview questions, images for use on the BFL website, and occasionally, free books for the purposes of review. BFL does not have the funds to pay makers at this time.
Benefits: Makers get free marketing and exposure for their work.
BFL Facebook Followers:
Anyone can join the BFL Facebook group. For safety of the group, I ask questions to verify that new members applying to join the group prove they are real people and not spam-bots.
I also ask about challenges they are facing (to help me know what to focus on next, recorded anonymously), and if they would like to join the email list.
Contributions: Some readers signal-boost posts by sharing posts, commenting, or inviting friends to the group. Clicking through to links and making amazon orders benefits BFL. Clicking affiliate links does not change the cost of Amazon orders.
Benefits: Readers get free posts multiple times a week, alerts when we post a new monthly email newsletter, book collections to help them quickly and easily find books to help them deal with current challenges, and articles to learn about topics outside the sphere of their own social justice work. Readership is free.
Benevolent Incendiaries – Email subscribers:
Anyone can subscribe to email updates.
Contributions: Readers may share or forward newsletters to signal boost the work of BFL.
Benefits: Same as the benefits for the Facebook group. Readership is free.
Insiders – Patreon Subscribers:
Anyone can subscribe to the Patreon feed starting at $1/month.
Contributions: Insiders support BFL financially with monthly funding, responses to polls when we’re determining the direction and services of BFL, and a sense of solidarity and support.
Benefits: Subscriber rewards vary based on tier of support, and this can change at any time. Benefits usually include an exclusive monthly post viewable only for supporters, sneak-previews of upcoming blog posts, and for higher tiers, tangible items, like drawings of robots on postcards from Ashia and 1-on-1 consultations.
On your mind: Why on earth do I contribute to marginalized groups and activists if I’m claiming I don’t make a living wage running BFL?
Because none of us deserves to eat until all of us have a place at the table. Patreons pay me to write about, say, racism – because racism is still an urgent problem.
BFL hopes to benefit the following groups of people. I mean – I try to benefit everyone in the world, but we’re particularly focused on the groups below – those who face systemic oppression and discrimination in our current kyriarchy. I seek to do this by educating oppressors and the wider public on injustice, history, and the cultures and lived experience of:
- Members of disabled community, inclusive of those with physical and cognitive disabilities.
- Mad and Neurodivergent folks
- People of color
- Indigenous peoples/Native Americans/First Nations
- People of faith, particularly faiths targeted in North America, such as Sikhism, Islam & Judaism.
- Members of the LGBTQ+ community
- Femmes and nonbinary folks
- Fat folks and those with bodies and appearances erased from traditional media and shamed
- Immigrants, English-as-a-second-language speakers
- Financially insecure families
- People who have been culturally, economically, or otherwise systemically denied access to education, housing, and fair employment.
- Victims of abuse and violence
- Public libraries
- Authors, illustrators, and publishers (makers) who are making progressive work featuring with a diverse range of characters – with a priority on Makers from the above list of targeted groups.
- Makers highlighted in our Maker Spotlight interviews.
- Non-profit organizations receive financial donations. I need to make a list for all of our finances, so that will be published in the future when I have time.
- But for now, a short and incomplete list updated in July of 2018
- 2018 Financial Beneficiaries: (updated July 2018)
ACLU (civil rights)Planned Parenthood (healthcare)The Brady Center (Gun control)National ADAPT (Disability rights)Massachusetts Homeless Coalition (Shelters)The Child Foundation (International disaster relief)Karam Foundation (Syrian relief)RAICES (legal assistance for minor immigrants)Hold The Line Magazine (Black-owned, woman-owned organization promoting social justice education for families. Disclosure: HTL is featuring me/BFL in an upcoming issue.)Immigrant Families Together (Reuniting families violently separated at the border)Water for Families in Flint (personal paypal donation organized by Creighton Leigh)
Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Library (we contributed to the crowdfunding for an upcoming Neurodivergent Narwhals book).
Oh Joy Sex Toy (Erika Moen) for sex education (on patreon)
Autistic Hoya (Lydia X. Z. Brown) for trans-racial adoption, disability, and gender education. (on patreon)
Ramp Your Voice! on Patreon (advocates for Black disabled femmes.)
- 2017 Financial Beneficiaries: Outright Youth of Carawba Valley (support for LGBTQ+ youth), The Tigerlily Foundation (breast cancer diagnostics & support run by and for women of color), Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (dismantling wealth inequality) Flippable (anti-gerrymandering), Carmelo Anthony Foundation (Puerto Rico hurricane relief), PAIR project (legal assistance for asylum seekers), the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, The Compassion Collective, Oh Joy Sex Toy (Erika Moen) (body acceptance, sexual health), Autistic Hoya (Lydia X. Z. Brown) (civil rights) (on patreon), Ijeoma Oluo, Didi Delgado, and the Newton Free Library, without which, BFL would be impossible.
- 2018 Financial Beneficiaries: (updated July 2018)
Statement of Acknowledgement (SAA)
The SAA gives credit to those whose work we learn from and reference. Since the emotional and intellectual labor of activists and people from targeted groups is often unpaid and unacknowledged (COUGH COUGH LIKE BFL, PLEASE BECOME A PATRON), it’s our responsibility to signal-boost the work we benefit from.
Organizations & people we follow currently, but do not have the funds to pay yet:
- 18 Million Rising for Asian American racial justice education
- Kerima Cevik & Intersected (sporadically ongoing)- for education on the intersections of race and disability
- Books on body acceptance and existing as a fat woman in America (See our Fat Liberation post)
- Autism Women’s Network – Autistic women and nonbinary advocacy
Women Who Are Way More Knowledgable Than Me – On Decolonization
Since I can am a US settler (a descendant of immigrants and refugees), my depth of knowledge in Latinx and Indigenous experiences is severely limited. The following are #OwnVoices resources investigating kidlit through a decolonizing lens. I haven’t had a chance to thoroughly vet every book I read through their filter, and sometimes our perspectives differ. But with respect to Latinx & Indigenous representation, they have a wealth of information and experience I am oblivious to and these resources are an enormous gift to the world:
- Debbie Reese’s American Indians In Children’s Literature
- Beverly Slapin’s De Colores: The Raza Experience In Books For Children
- If you are a librarian or writer, I highly recommend the weighty reference book, A Broken Flute, by Doris Seale & Beverly Slapin (with many additional contributors).
As the founder and only contributor to BFL, I take responsibility for learning and understanding:
- Who benefits from the current systems (social, financial, educational), and who is harmed by it (identifying targeted groups).
- My own power and privilege, both those I hold as an individual, and those I am associated with as a part of my group identities.
- What procedures I must take for speaking up against problematic behavior, including my own (see below, reporting concerns).
Ashia’s Personal Responsibilities Running BFL (No promises, but I try very hard)
- Protection of the mental well-being and physical well-being of all BFL readers and their families.
- This includes shutting down online attacks, blocking group members who execute toxic behaviors (threats, name-calling, open bigotry, hostility toward a member of a targeted group.)
- Screening new group members to protect readers against privacy invasion, trolls, and bots.
- Responding to critiques, critical comments, and emails that call my actions into question from a place of curiosity, instead of defensiveness.
- Reflect on bigotry in the books we review from as many possible identities as I can. (Example: not choosing to boost books that fight racism while also putting down disabled folks.)
Reporting & Responding To Criticism
Send concerns along with information to help me know what you’re talking about (links and such) to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you feel actively unsafe reporting critical feedback to me, please use my Anonymous Critical Feedback Form. Avoid this if possible, since it’s way less helpful and might flatten me for a month. But if for some reason you truly feel I would take retaliatory action against you for criticizing me, this form acts as a safeguard for your protection.
What you can expect to happen when you criticize me:
- If the criticism calls into question my actions (ex: saying a racial slur) rather than my identity (re: being a bitch), I will address it. If it’s obvious trolling designed to waste my spoons and time, I will simply delete your comment or message.
- Addressing your feedback means:
- Thanking you for your courage and the emotional labor it takes to call issues to my attention.
- Explaining my reasoning for saying/doing what I did.
- Acknowledging what I did wrong, if I agree.
- Creating an additional edit drawing attention to the issue you raised, if I agree, and the comment isn’t already attached to the original post.
- I will not delete my problematic language or mistakes (dirty delete) because that erases your hard work, and no one can learn from it.
- I will do some research on my own to broaden my understanding of what I did to bother you (whether or not I agree it was wrong).
- I will name actions if critics presume incompetence, center supremacy of any sort, derail the topic at hand, tone police, and try other nonsense.
- I reserve the right not to engage and to discontinue engagement for my own mental health.
- I will maintain your right to privacy
- If you send me a private email, I will not publish your personal contact information (name, email address, identifying info). But if it’s abusive, harassing, or threatening, I reserve the right to contact the appropriae authorities for my family’s protection.
- I reserve the right to quote non-personally identifying information.
- Example: You write “You suck. Your hairstyle is the worst. Sincerely, Jason, one of only three employees who works at ‘Worm Tea’ at 262 Clarendon st. in Boston.”
- I might (haven’t ever, but reserve the right to) screenshot and/or copy and paste all of that text, except to omit or block the words ‘Jason,’ ‘Worm Tea,’ and ‘262 Clarendon St.’ But if you work at a chain like Chick-Fil-A, I might include include the name of your workplace since it’s not personally identifiable, but is is relevant, since CFA is garbage and profits lobby for bigotry in US legislation.
Basically, this boils down to the idea that it’s safe (and encouraged!) to kindly point out when I’ve messed up. I like learning things!
TL;DR: I will treat you like a human who deserves respect. Please do the same for me.
This document was last edited on Septmber 17, 2018 by Ashia R.