The tragic killing of George Floyd in 2020, in our global headquarters hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, inspired a group of General Mills employees to make a difference.
And they’re doing it through books.
After Floyd’s death, Alli Hearne – Senior Solutions Manager at General Mills – began searching for a way to talk to her children about racism, expose them to people of different backgrounds and ultimately reduce unconscious bias in the next generation.
“I was really emotionally affected. And it happened here in our community - and it just felt very real. I could no longer just stand by – I needed to step up and take action for racial justice,” says Hearne.
Discovering that there are more children’s books published each year that feature animals than people of color, Hearne came up with the idea of starting a nonprofit to fund the free book program – “Looking Glass Books.”
Its mission is to eradicate racism and eliminate unconscious bias by exposing children to people of diverse backgrounds through literature.
She began reaching out to friends and coworkers to form a team of passionate partners to help bring the nonprofit to life.
Several General Mills employees expressed interest and joined the team, including Kathya Chiluiza, Logistics Product Safety Leader; Jaymee Miller, Brand Experience Senior Planner; Frank Ross, Cyber Security Manager; and Kayla Smith, Customer Account Lead. Lisa Stolper, High School Administrator, is also a founding member.
Over the summer of 2020, the team laid out the groundwork for Looking Glass Books.
Did you know that children begin to show racial attitudes and implicit bias as early as 4 years old?
That’s why Looking Glass Books was established to empower Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) children by exposing them to heroes who look like them and to expose and educate white ally children to diversity and a more equitable representation of the world through literature.
“It feels really good to take action for something that you believe in, and to hopefully make a difference, for the future. And most importantly – to make the world a better place for people of color,” Hearne says.
Families enrolled in the Looking Glass Books program will receive free children’s books in the mail, selected by a diverse committee to ensure the books are reviewed through a variety of lenses – racial, economic, cultural, institutional and age appropriate.
Learn more about what the team looks for in the books they select here.
Over the 2021 school year, Looking Glass Books will pilot the program in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area focusing on children in grades Kindergarten through second grade. The team will mail four children’s books to each pilot family throughout the year and offer activities and video discussions for kids and parents.
Looking Glass Books’ 501(c)(3) status was officially approved in December. Since then, they’ve received over 200 signups for the program and will start sending books out to the 50 pilot families next month.
To learn more about the nonprofit and the impact the team is making, visit https://www.lookingglassbooks.org/.
If you’re interested in supporting them, you can make a donation to Looking Glass Books here.