Crime - Sacto 911

Children's book about police shootings comes to schools in Stephon Clark's neighborhood

Students in Stephon Clark’s neighborhood attend reading of children’s book about police shootings

In a south Sacramento school library on Tuesday, children crowded around tables for story time. The topic: police shootings and racial injustice.
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In a south Sacramento school library on Tuesday, children crowded around tables for story time. The topic: police shootings and racial injustice.

In a school library in south Sacramento on Tuesday, children crowded around tables for story time.

The book's topic: police shootings and racial injustice.

“Something Happened in Our Town, A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice” follows two children, one from a white family and one from a black family, as they talk about why a white police officer would shoot an unarmed black man in their city.

The reading at John Still K-8 School in Meadowview was just blocks away from where two officers shot and killed Stephon Clark in March. About 30 kids in first through third grades gathered for Tuesday's event as part of the Freedom Schools Scholars summer program.

While the book does not specifically address the Clark case, the reading was hosted by the Rose Family Empowerment Center as a response to his fatal police shooting, according to a press release.

Clark's grandmother, Sequita Thompson, attended Tuesday's reading. She praised the book, which she hopes will prompt families to have conversations about police shootings.

"I think that now kids will come out more and ask their parents, or as they're teaching them, more questions about why does this kind of thing happen, or is this fair, and then they can explain it to them and educate them on it," Thompson said. "I hope and pray that there will be more books coming out."

The book was written by three Atlanta-based psychologists to help parents talk about race and violence with their kids, and two of the co-authors read the book Tuesday.

Freedom Schools is a six-week national literacy program funded by the Children's Defense Fund, said Roni Herndon, program manager for the local Freedom Schools programs at both the John Still and Parkway campuses. The program largely serves children in low-income, minority communities.

While the subjects of police shootings and racial injustice may seem a bit heavy for kids in first through third grades, the book's co-authors said it is the perfect age to talk about racial issues and injustices.

"Little kids are noticing racial differences. They're noticing skin color," said Ann Hazzard, one of the co-authors. "It's very obvious, and they're also noticing things like segregation and disparity and people being teased and stereotypes on television."

The book was just released last month, but it has been in the works for about two years, Marietta Collins, another co-author, told the room full of inquisitive kids.

Even though the book isn't about what happened in Sacramento specifically, the issues it deals with resonated with many of the kids at the reading.

"I thought this book was very good because how they talk about what happened, not only in their town, but our town, too," said Malaysia Towner, 8. "And it's kind of unfair that they treat us this way."

Towner said her favorite part about the book was when a group of children stood up for a new kid in their school who was being bullied.

"They were helping him no matter what skin color he was," Towner said.

Both Collins and Hazzard will do another reading in Sacramento for the summer scholars program at Parkway Elementary School on Wednesday.

"We wanted to really be able to equip families to have difficult conversations with children, both black and white families, around issues related to social injustice," Collins said. "Both families (in the book) get the message that you can make a change by starting out now, trying to not treat people unfairly."

Hazzard said, as a white mother, she also wanted to give white parents the ability to tackle these topics. Conversation guides are included in the back of the book for parents and caregivers.

"I wanted white parents to become part of a movement to decrease racial injustice, and I think the way to do that is to talk to your kids young and keep talking," Hazzard said.