As it has done many times before in the face of injustice, crisis, or tragedy affecting kids and families, the children’s literature community is banding together to rally support—and money—for a cause. The newest campaign is called Kid Lit Says No Kids in Cages, a response to the horrifying scenes being depicted in the news of immigrant parents and children being separated at the southern border of the United States—and children forced into detention camps—as the Department of Justice and Attorney General Jeff Sessions enforce a zero-tolerance immigration policy.
A core group of 20 children’s authors, including Melissa de la Cruz, Margaret Stohl, Marie Lu, Jenny Han, Victoria Aveyard, Soman Chainani, Brendan Reichs, Ally Condie, and Rainbow Rowell, released a statement on Monday, June 18 condemning the actions of the U.S. government. According to de la Cruz, the campaign was born Sunday evening when Margaret Stohl sent a group text to 10 of her author friends, including de la Cruz. “Margie’s text was a call to action ‘WHAT CAN WE DO KIDS ARE IN CAGES,’” said de la Cruz. “She also sent a text that said ‘MEL FIX THIS,’ because our friendship has always been that way, Margie is the spark and I am the muscle.” The committee jointly decided to make a statement and write a letter to their kid lit community that “explained our distress at what was happening,” de la Cruz noted. “We corralled our logistics crew, our Yallwest producers Tori Hill and Shane Pangburn,” she added, and they quickly set up a Google doc to collect names to add to their statement, and an Action Network link to raise funds, and sent out the email—which also encouraged social media sharing of these efforts—to 750 people in the children’s book industry.
The email letter from the authors accompanying the statement reveals that the initial idea was to raise $42,000 to buy a full-page ad in the New York Times Book Review but that the group consensus was the money raised would be better spent if given to agencies that directly help the immigrant families and children in crisis. As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, the initial goal had been surpassed, with more than $48,000 raised so far to be distributed to six different organizations, including the Florence Project, which provides legal and social services to detained immigrants in Arizona, the ACLU, and Kids in Need of Defense, a group protecting and providing legal aid to unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. immigration system alone. By noon on Tuesday, the goal had been raised to $75,000, and donations were quickly approaching the new target. More than 1700 people have signed the statement thus far as well.
“We launched 24 hours after Margie sent the text, possibly less,” de la Cruz said. “We felt speed was of the essence, and wanted to turn our despair into action and to really stand up and say THIS IS NOT RIGHT, WE ARE AGAINST THIS. We are incredibly cheered by the support from our community to fight the atrocity happening at our borders.”
The movement continues to grow, and de la Cruz says that the committee is now working on “more graphics, scripts to call reps, possibly a Texas phone bank during ALA, and raising our goal in increments of 25,000 every week until this is over.”
UPDATE: With donations pouring in at a steady clip,, the group’s goal has been upped to $200,000, and more than $175,000 had been collected by Friday morning.