By Jason Carrillo
Edited by Claudia Loayza
Libraries are important! They are free public institutions and anchor literacy and other services in our communities. They serve as centers of community engagement and are investments in future school success and economic sustainability!
However, a library cannot operate without its books, and book supply and libraries themselves can be difficult to access in some rural areas of our state, in addition to youth in the juvenile justice system. Which is why Multicultural Affairs’ (MCA) own Rozanna Benally-Sagg has partnered with the Utah State Library Division (State Library) to deliver books to youth that would benefit from literacy empowerment! Multicultural Affairs’ connection with Utah Foster Care’s Stephanie Benally helped launch the first literacy effort when Rozanna connected Stephanie with Karen Liu of State Library to receive free books. Benally loaded up several boxes of books with the help of Utah Division of Indian Affairs’ James Toledo. Stephanie is supplying books to Native American foster families across the state. MCA is a continuous supporter of literacy empowerment across the state. In 2020, Rozanna helped coordinate an MCA book campaign to gather books from CCE department members and community-based organizations, and Stephanie delivered them to Native American foster families, as well.
So far Rozanna has delivered books to the Utah Division of Juvenile Justice System, youth and families at Salt Lake City’s Living Traditions Festival, Kearns Library & Partnering for Improved Health Celebration, and to Battle Rock Charter School. This school has served Utah students for decades, and has evolved from a one-house schoolroom to a multi-classroom facility (77 students, grades K-6) with a small office building. Especially in rural communities, libraries facilitate intergenerational and family learning in partnership with community-based organizations, so be excited for more book donations in the future, they’ve only just begun!
These kinds of cross-sector partnerships are clearly essential to our social infrastructure, and efforts like these are incredibly impactful in increasing childhood literacy across Utah. Thank you to the Utah State Library Division for providing books and making big differences in the smallest of communities!
This isn’t the first time Rozanna has coordinated literacy efforts among diverse communities. In the 2000s, her family (mom, dad, brother, and sister) supported her in the development of a family-based literacy initiative. For several years, they collected new books and delivered them to different communities within the four-cornered states, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, area, mostly within communities with high populations of Native Americans. Using their own funds, transportation, and time, they would travel many miles to several communities to deliver books (most times at the request of communities) and share their knowledge about literacy through family literacy nights. They were able to deliver over 7,500 new books to families. Her most memorable delivery is taking books by horse to Navajo Mountain and parts of northern Arizona with her family.
Rozanna continues to advocate for literacy access and has been able to immerse this same passion within her work at MCA with the support of her caring colleagues.
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