Kindness is helping other people not because you have to, but because you want too. Kindness helps connect people to each other and books, like kindness, help forge connections as well.
We are Mena and Zena Nasiri, ages 14 and 15 respectively, and we started the nonprofit Girls of the Crescent so we could help people through books.
In 4th grade, we were given a school project to research about a person who we looked up to. We both went to our public library with female Muslim women in mind that were huge role models to us and we couldn’t find any books about them. Later we began to realize the same thing occurred in other genres, that there was a shortage of books about Muslim girls. In fact, the first time we saw ourselves represented was this year when we read The Lines We Cross, by Randa Abdel-Fattah. The feeling that we experienced when reading about characters like us was indescribable and we were astonished that we had never experienced it before. Sometimes it was just the little things that made an impact, like the main character’s name being Mina or her eating the typical Middle Eastern food that we eat at home. Books have an immense impact on how children behave, socialize, and see themselves in the world, and if young kids don’t see themselves represented, there is a certain sense of not belonging.
This spurred us into action. We knew that we had to do something to help other people like us feel like they belong. Our mom’s friend gave us the idea to start a nonprofit organization. She helped us through the process and with her and our mom’s help we created Girls of the Crescent. We decided our mission would be to collect books with female Muslim main characters and donate them to schools and libraries.
We started off local, working with our school district’s Parent Teacher Association and got almost 200 books into our schools. Getting to help that many people and seeing the support of everyone who helped us validated our work and made us want to spread our impact.
We decided to hold a can and bottle drive in our neighborhood as a fundraiser. Within days of putting out the notice, we had gotten a plethora of replies from neighbors and people that we didn’t even know.
Not only were people from our community extending kindness to us, but the authors of the books that we were donating also were. Many authors donated their own books to us in large volumes. Some sent signed copies and bookmarks to go along with the books. They were all very supportive of our cause and many gave us opportunities for more publicity.
The experience of receiving kindness led to the experience of giving kindness. Through all of the generous donations that we got, we were able to donate not only within our district but to other districts as well as public libraries. One of the most memorable donations was to an Islamic elementary school. When we gave the books to the kindergarten, first, and second-grade students their faces lit up. They were eager to see what these books were all about and started flipping through them immediately. No doubt, they too were awestruck to see characters that looked like them.
The experiences from our 4th-grade realization, to forming Girls of the Crescent, to receiving and giving donations all taught us the true meaning of kindness. Never before in our lives had we received so much support from people we knew, along with total strangers, and we shared that kindness with others through our book donations. We, in turn, hope that the kindness that we share gets passed on to others and that the chain continues, spreading kindness to the world.
Kindly, Mena and Zena
Page turners & Magic Makers 🌈