New virtual story time for kids focuses on racial diversity


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A new story time showcases African-American writers and their books that feature main characters of color.

While the idea has been in the works for months, organizers say it organically launched now, during a time of nationwide scrutiny of racial equality.

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The program is called Reading Out Loud and it’s sponsored by UlTre Linked in partnership with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Beta Upsilon Omega Chapter. Organizers hope the program will introduce participants to a variety of diverse children’s books while promoting language and literacy development.

Malaika Williams is the program chair of UlTre Linked and says when her son was little, it wasn’t easy to find books featuring characters with whom he could identify. She hopes the Reading Out Loud program can help.

“We know that children form a deeper relationship with books when they see themselves in a book on a page. It inspires them to read,” Williams said.

The program is multi-faceted, not only encouraging children to read, but also helping families start conversations about race.

“I’m not talking about just African-American children, I’m talking about all children. So you don’t look like me, I don’t look like you, our skin is different, but I need you to see me because I love you. Right? And I know that you love me. So, let’s let’s see each other,” she said.

Fayette County School District is also a partner and says, it “hopes the program will make a difference in children’s lives while at the same time spreading lessons in diversity and culture.”

Beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 28, Superintendent Manny Caulk kicked off the series with the book, ‘The Undefeated,’ written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

Continuing on Sundays this summer, different guest readers will read aloud on UlTre Linked’s Facebook.

Families who register for the event will have an opportunity to receive a copy of the book so children will not only see and hear the stories, but will also build their home libraries.

“It takes an entire community to ensure the success of our public schools and this partnership with UlTre Linked and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority will enhance our efforts to build a community of readers,” Caulk said.

This program launched right as protests continue nationwide.

“While advocates for racial and social justice are marching in the streets of Lexington, here in Kentucky, across our nation and around the world, I am excited to share this book with our families,” Caulk said.

“The books we read have an impact on the way our children understand the world around them. The Undefeated allows black children to see themselves in literature, and teaches children of all races about the experiences of African-Americans in our nation,” Caulk continued.

Upcoming events include:

  • Sunday, July 12, 4 p.m.: Author Rasheda Smith reading her book, Kiyah’s Cotton Candy Curls
  • Sunday, July 26, 4 p.m.: Dantrea Hampton reading I Am Enough, by Grace Ayers
  • Sunday, August 2, 4 p.m.: Author Christine Williams reading her book Chrissy Doesn’t Like Her Hair!
  • Sunday, August 9, 4 p.m.: Sheila Stuckey reading Brown Sugar Babe, by Charlotte Watson Sherman
  • Sunday, August 16, 4 p.m.: Ramona Griffin reading Harlem Renaissance Party by Faith Ringgold
  • Sunday, August 23, 4 p.m.: Xavier Brown reading Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs
  • Sunday, August 30, 4 p.m.: Taureen Smith I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

Families can register here:

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Monica Harkins joined the ABC 36 News team in June 2019 as a Multimedia journalist and Anchor/Producer. She’s born and raised in Austin, Texas and headed “North,” as she calls it, to study broadcast journalism and business at the University of Missouri. While at Mizzou she anchored and reported for KOMU 8 News, an NBC affiliate in Columbia, Missouri all four years. During her childhood she played almost every sport, but they always called her “Hollywood” for her love of theatre. In high school, she realized her excitement for theatre and performing was only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s story telling that’s her passion. She’s especially passionate about social media and creative platforms to tell stories. Her most recent experiment is being a FAA certified drone pilot. As a proud Texan she says she’s made of country music, Southern hospitality and Sweet Tea. When she’s not at work you can find her trying new recipes, listening to crime podcasts, reading the latest romance novel or rockin’ out to live music with friends. She says she’s only a tweet or Facebook message away, so say hi and send her the latest on your community. @MonicaHarkinstv or