Public Education Matters

On May 20, 2023, OEA is teaming up with the Hilliard Education Association, OEA-R, and many community partners in Hilliard to host a big book giveaway event for central Ohio students. Upwards of 9,000 books featuring diverse characters, written by diverse authors as part of this Read Across America event. HEA member Tiffany Thomas explains the power of diverse literature in children's lives, and encourages families to come pick out a book with their kid at this Summer Celebration of Diverse Readers event. 

A Summer Celebration of Diverse Readers
  • Free books | Family activities | Community Resources | Snacks
  • May 20th, 2023
  • 10am – 2pm
  • Warehouse #839, Hilliard United Methodist Church, 3691 Main Street, Hilliard, OH 43026
  • All are welcome!

JOIN US FOR A SUMMER CELEBRATION OF DIVERSE READERS| The inaugural Summer Celebration of Diverse Readers event is open to all families. In addition to free books for preK-6th grade readers, there will be plenty of free family activities and snacks while supplies last. 
When we read books that have characters of all races, genders, and backgrounds, students discover their own voices and learn from the voices of others. Let’s come together to kick off a great summer by celebrating diverse readers, so we can set all students up for success!

Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Tiffany Thomas, Hilliard Education Association member
    • Tiffany Thomas is a 17 year dedicated educator and advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion in the Hilliard City School District. She is a native of Columbus, Ohio, a proud graduate of Columbus City Schools, and mother to a fierce three year old little girl. She has been an English Language Arts teacher for the past sixteen years and recently transitioned into the position of Innovative Media Specialist at Hilliard Bradley High School. During her time in the classroom,Tiffany has focused her approach on developing lessons and standards aligned curriculum for grade level courses that incorporated culturally relevant teaching practices, helped develop the district wide ELA curriculum , and represented her colleagues as a Hilliard Education Association Building Representative. Graduating from Ohio University in 2005 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Integrated Language Arts and from The Ohio State University in 2008 with a Master’s of Arts in Diversity Studies, Tiffany has honed her skill and love for culturally relevant education through her teaching practices and numerous professional development opportunities she has created and led in her district and community.
    • Throughout her professional journey, Tiffany responded to her colleagues' need for meaningful professional development by creating opportunities for teachers to share in their own journeys with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She has been able to create opportunities for teachers to work with authors such as Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, Mindy McGinnis and Natalie Richards, concerning valuing student experience in the classroom. In the spring of 2020, the murder of George Floyd sparked a
      movement within the Hilliard City School District that created a need for strategies and pedagogies when trying to embrace the black, brown,and disenfranchised voices within the classroom. Tiffany partnered with a group of colleagues, Pam Antos, Kelsey Burkett, Daniel Redman, and Lane Vanderhule, to lead the charge and create professional development opportunities for teachers centering on embracing anti-racist pedagogy and practice within our classrooms. In efforts to create an environment that every student feels comfortable, accepted and heard, Tiffany has taken the reins of the DEI efforts within her building, helping to lead a team of teachers in both culturally relevant teaching and restorative practices. She has also led professional development for other HSCD diversity facilitators as well as helping them to develop effective DEI teams throughout the district. Furthering the chance to always value student voice, Tiffany leads the Diversity Club, a student group that meets monthly to discuss current DEI topics and the
      effects of these issues on them as high school students and members of the global society. These conversations are open to all and are a transformative experience for both students and staff.
    • This year Tiffany was recognized as the 2023 OCTELA Outstanding English Language Arts Educator in the Secondary category and nominated to represent Ohio as a Teacher of Excellence at NCTE.
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Connect with OEA:
About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May 2020, after a ten-year career as an Emmy Award winning television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on May 8, 2023.

What is Public Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.6 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000 members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Originally launched in 2021 as Education Matters, Public Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Public Education Matters? Email us at

Intro 0:07
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Welcome back to Education Matters. I'm Katie Olmsted, and I'm part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association and it's 120,000 members. As the school year winds down, OEA is joining forces with members in the Hilliard Education Association and OEA-Retired, as well as many community partners to kick off the summer in a big way, with a huge book giveaway in central Ohio, on May 20th at Warehouse 839 on Main Street in Hilliard. We're giving away upwards of 9,000 books featuring diverse characters or written by diverse authors at this Summer Celebration of Diverse Readers. It's part of the year round Read Across America campaign, a National Education Association initiative centering around the theme of Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers. And we are inviting all families of all backgrounds to come pick out a book with their kids and enjoy so much free family fun. We're talking everything from a readers corner, where Ohio authors and local business and community leaders are going to be sharing diverse books out loud --also, coloring stations, face painting, lawn games, a touch-a-truck opportunity, and so much more. And of course, everyone can also enjoy plenty of free snacks while supplies last too. This is something that has been months in the making for all of the groups that are involved in putting it together. And I cannot tell you how excited I am about OEA's first ever Summer Celebration of Diverse Readers event. But while I am looking forward to all of the fun, the opportunity this event will provide for elementary-aged readers to see themselves and the world around them in new ways is so, so important. Maybe now more than ever. To dive into that a little more. We sat down with Tiffany Thomas, a Hilliard Education Association member who serves as the Innovative Media Specialist at Hilliard Bradley High School. Listen to what she had to say.

Katie Olmsted 2:33
Tiffany Thomas, thank you so much for joining us to talk about A Summer Celebration of Diverse Readers coming up on May 20 at Warehouse 839 on the Hilliard United Methodist Church campus right there in Hilliard. Doors are open from 10 to 2. And there is just so much to talk about with this event. Why was it something that Hilliard Education Association really, you know, took leadership in and really took charge of making happen?

Tiffany Thomas 3:05
One of the things I can say about Hilliard Education Association is the fact that we are always student centered. And we're always thinking of every student first. In our district, we believe you know, "all students, without exception." So what better way to do that then to create an event where we center the love of reading and celebrating all of our differences.

Katie Olmsted 3:32
And Hilliard is becoming an increasingly diverse community. Is that right?

Tiffany Thomas 3:38
Absolutely, absolutely. We're seeing it every day. We're growing by leaps and bounds. And we want to make sure that our students' lived experiences are the things that are reflected in our literature selections, what are reflected in the conversations that we have in the classrooms, and making sure we value them in our hallways and in buildings as well.

Katie Olmsted 4:02
And I'm sure you see the benefits of that firsthand through your specific job. You're an Innovative Media Specialist, which as you described to me is a fancy word for librarian.

Tiffany Thomas 4:13

Katie Olmsted 4:14
What do you see as the power of diverse books in the hands of our children?

Tiffany Thomas 4:20
The power of diverse books in the hands of our children just allows them to really have ownership on their own experience within school and for their experience in the schools to be a reflection of who they are as people. The fact that we value all of the personalities and cultures that come into our doors every day, what better way, again, than to do it through literature because it's just such a great medium for people to start conversations, to show who they are, to learn new things. So this is just a really great opportunity for us.

Katie Olmsted 5:02
And this event that's coming up on May 20 is really an opportunity for families to start those conversations with their kids. OEA, HEA, OEA-R, tons of community partners are all working together to give away upwards of 9,000 books for pre-K to sixth grade readers. They all feature diverse characters and/or were written by diverse authors and, and all families are welcome to come through, enjoy the family fun, and pick out a book with their kids, n age-appropriate book with their kids that speaks to them. From your experience, how important is it for for children to really be to have that say in what they're reading?

Tiffany Thomas 5:50
Oh, it's so important. And it's so powerful for them. So many times people remember that first book that ever really resonated with them and, you know, spoke to them on a lot of different levels. And typically, that is because it is a reflection of them. It's a, you know, mirror for them of their own experience. So we have to make sure that we're providing those things for our students. And it's just invaluable to their development as people to see themselves, and to also be able to understand and see others.

Katie Olmsted 6:25
I mean, I think of my own experience and my own children's experience. And so much of what we learn about the world around us, is through the eyes of the characters in the books that we read together. How important is it, do you think, that that families make intentional choices to have that diverse experience? I think it's so important that obviously, we read books that reflect ourselves, children need to see themselves in books, but also to expose our children and have them see the world in a new way.

Tiffany Thomas 6:59
You're absolutely correct. And the reason why, you know, I personally, in my own experience, and professional experience as well, feel that's a great thing is that because many of the conversations that form our students into the people they are take place right in their homes. So we want to make sure that we're always providing families with opportunities to have those conversations and books are great springboards to giving students an opportunity to ask questions, and to open a dialogue at home about their own belief systems, their own cultures, you know, as well as talking about ones that may differ from them or own.

Katie Olmsted 7:43
As a funny side anecdote here. My, my family is Jewish, and my son, he's four, he asked me once, we were driving to my mom's house, "Mom, what's a Christian?" And I had this, this, you know, I some of my proudest moments explaining "Well, to understand what a Christian is, first, you have to understand what we are as Jews." And I, you know, went through the culturally relevant holidays, the ones he I know, he understood, and he remembered, this is a good 20 minute drive, I get all the way to the end. And I say, "Does all that makes sense to you, buddy?" And he just says, "No. Let's go see Bubbe." That's his grandma.

Tiffany Thomas 8:23
Out of the mouth of babes. Right?

Katie Olmsted 8:25
So age-appropriate books, I think is one of the takeaways from that, for me, is, is making it something that is approachable for certain ages. Obviously, a four year old is gonna have a different approach to diverse reading than, say, the sixth graders who are going to be coming through here. How do you pick out a good age-appropriate diverse book for your kids?

Tiffany Thomas 8:47
When we thought talk about, you know, age appropriateness, there are just so many great resources out there that you can really jump into like the School Library Journal, the Kirkus Reviews, and Common Sense Media that gives you kind of a holistic view of what the book is about, especially if you haven't read it. But at the same time, just experience and getting out there and hearing what is out there. And what's on those lists. And exploring those options with your kids allows them to have a say, it allows you to have a say, and it also allows an opportunity for dialogue to happen about you know, things that are happening in books and maybe things that may be reflected in the classrooms or what they hear their friends talk about. So age-appropriateness is so important, and it's just a dialogue between the parent the student, at times the teacher, but we all know our kids the best and we know exactly what they're ready for.

Katie Olmsted 9:51
And I love the idea of that dialogue between all of the adults who who care so deeply about these students in our schools. How important is that partnership between the adults in this in this whole scenario?

Tiffany Thomas 10:04
It's key to everything. You know, whenever a teacher approaches any type of issue or a goal for a student, there's no way that we can be insular with that. It's no way that we can just focus on that task without including the parents in it. So by bringing parents in on this dialogue, by having this dialogue with them, by giving them our expertise, as well as them being able to dialogue with us about, you know, maybe what's happening in the home, what their experiences are, gives, not only us as teachers, but the parent a full picture so that they're able to make the best decisions that they possibly can when it comes to the books that their kids read.

Katie Olmsted 10:51
Now, there are going to be some critics who say that by making intentional choices about creating opportunities for children to have access to diverse books, specifically, diverse characters, that they're going to say that it's dividing the community, that it is amplifying our differences around race, or around gender or around ability or any of those other, quote unquote, categories. What would you say to them?

Tiffany Thomas 11:25
I would say that, again, this is a team sport. This is for everyone. And when you're able to work in a district like Hilliard City Schools, where we believe that, you know, we provide the best possible situations for all kids without exception, we have to leave room for things that maybe we don't always believe in, we don't always, you know, don't always align with our own belief systems. But what we're hoping for is to create an exchange between people that may be naysayers, and between us as educators, to be able to work together in order to get to the bottom line, which is the success of our students and to create, you know, very well rounded citizens that we're able to send out into the world.

Katie Olmsted 12:18
For me, I fear, a move because of all the threats of book bans and all of those things around the country, I fear a move of some districts to play it safe. And to try, to try to homogenize the, the books that they're offering, to remove books with diverse characters from the shelves and from the curriculum. What does the world look like for these kids if they don't see themselves reflected in the literature and respected in the literature? I can

Tiffany Thomas 12:51
I can even speak on this from personal experience as an African American woman. A lot of times it closes you out of the classroom. You don't feel that you as a person matter, that you as a person are seen. And we do have to rely on teachers to give every student that opportunity to be seen within that classroom, because a lot of our students own personal successes come from that ownership of the classroom, feeling that they are part of that classroom. And I feel like that alone, that feeling of inclusion, to be cared about, to be loved, to make school someplace that a kid wants to be, should be in the forefront of both sides' minds. So hopefully, that, you know, prevails in all and we're able to work together.

Katie Olmsted 13:44
And that's really what this event is all about. It's, it's about educators coming together with parents, and so many community partners from really, across the spectrum of beliefs. You know, the Hilliard United Methodist Church is one of our big partners in this. The Jewish Columbus and PJ Library is a big partner, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Ohio chapter, is another big partner in this and that's just a small slice of the diversity of thought that's represented. When the Hilliard Education Association, your leadership or your your group came together and said, 'Hey, they're thinking about doing this event and we think we should be a part of this.' What did you think about the idea?

Tiffany Thomas 14:33
Great. You know, Sign me up. How can I help? Because, again, at the forefront of all of this are our students and making sure that all of our students feel welcome and feel included and feel loved, you know. Wnd what better way then doing it through an event that gave kids free books. I am a librarian.

Katie Olmsted 14:59
Well free books, free snacks, free games. Among some of the highlights we have the Columbus Crew is going to be there for part of the day doing lawn games. We have Franklin County Children's Services is going to be there with some coloring activities. We have face painting, we have photo booths, we have the Norwich Fire Department is bringing a fire truck for a touch a truck event for part of the day. I am a grown adult, I will say I think I get more excited than my four year old does about fire truck! So I mean, I am so excited about this event. And I'm so excited to see so many different people coming together for this event. It is the inaugural event, the first time we are trying to put something like this together. What would you tell your friends and your neighbors about what this offers and why they should come out with their families?

Tiffany Thomas 15:57
This is a unique and wonderful opportunity where so many people have come together to show a community how much they love and care about them. And what more can we do as human beings than to show each other love, kindness and compassion? So I would say everyone get in their cars, head on over on May 20. And join us in this event to create more community.

Katie Olmsted 16:26
Create more community, create lifelong learners who have the freedom to read and be themselves. I think it is important to point out this is a big summer kickoff celebration. We have Columbus Metropolitan Library is going to be they're talking about their summer reading event and also offering activities, among them many other great things happening. But as much as this is about giving a free book and having that fun on one day, it is really also about setting everyone up for a great summer of literacy. Again, as a librarian, I'm sorry, as a innovative media specialist -

Tiffany Thomas 17:03
Yes, yes, yes.

Katie Olmsted 17:05
- How important is it that even when the school year is out, kids find books they want to read?

Tiffany Thomas 17:14
We can't create lifelong readers if we don't entice them with things that they actually want to have in their hands stories that absolutely resonate with them. Ones that keep them up at night you make them, you know, turn the page. If we're not allowing them to have these experiences and allow these experiences to carry on over the summer, we're really putting them at a detriment when they start that school year. So prevent that summer slide. Get a book in your kids hands, make it something that they want to read and reflect them and you will you know definitely create a lifelong reader.

Katie Olmsted 17:54
A lifelong reader that starts with a single event May 20 at the Hilliard United Methodist Church's Warehouse 839. Again, doors are open from 10 until two. You can stop by anytime in there because it's different events happening throughout the day. How are you feeling heading into it?

Tiffany Thomas 18:13
I'm super excited. I'm super jazzed. I can't wait. I hope to see you guys all there. Hopefully you'll say hey. But it's going to be an amazing that I can't wait to see what this all comes together and looks like.

Katie Olmsted 18:27
I can't wait either. Tiffany Thomas, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts

Tiffany Thomas 18:33
Anytime. I loved it.

Katie Olmsted 18:37
If you'd like to join us for this summer celebration of diverse readers with your family, you can find the full details at That link is in the show notes for this episode. And before we close this episode out, I want to say a huge thank you to the sponsors and partners who are making this summer celebration of diverse readers possible. Those include the Donatos; Honesty for Ohio Education; the Columbus Crew; the Columbus Metropolitan Library; the Hilliard Public Education Coalition, or HOPE; Cloppert, Latanick Sauter & Washburn; Franklin County Children's Services; Doll, Jansen & Ford; the Norwich Township Fire Department; Kalniz, Iorio & Reardon; Baasten McKinley; Education First Credit Union; the Ohio chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR-Ohio; Jewish Columbus and PJ library; the Hilliard United Methodist Church, the OEA-Retired division, and of course, the Hilliard Education Association. The support of each and every one of those organizations and the community members who have made so many generous donations is so critical to the success of this community event. We can't wait to see families at the Summer Celebration of Diverse Readers on May 20 in Hilliard, and I can't wait to be back again with you next week. New episodes of Education Matters drop every Thursday morning. Until next time, stay Well.

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