Stories Like Me actively works to create a safe reading space for children

Written By Alexis Wary, Staff Photographer

The power of Stories Like Me has brought families to tears when seeing a character resemble them for the first time in their life. Located in Greenfield, this local bookstore provides a safe space for children, teens, and families to explore stories that uniquely represent them.

There has been a recent uptick in book banning in states including West Virginia, Texas, Indiana, and more are proposing legislation to restrict the content within children’s books.

Florida has been a leader in the passing of these laws. Last year, the House Bill 1467 was passed by Ron DeSantis forcing teachers to remove books that weren’t approved through the state reading list.

Many of the books that have been removed feature diverse ethnicities, the LGBTQIA+ community, and discussion on racism. “By removing these stories, we are confirming these people aren’t welcome,” says Helen Campbell, 57 Co-Owner and CEO of Books Like Me.

Alex Romesberg, 31 from Morningside attended her first storytime with her daughter on Sunday. “It is criminal, books are important and just because you hide an idea, doesn’t me they aren’t true”

One recently banned book that focused on a Pittsburgh icon was Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates by Jonah Winter. This told the story of Clemente’s life through pictures but caused backlash in Florida due to the author discussing the racism that Clemente faced.

The owners talked about the challenges that librarians in particular are facing in the wake of these book bans. “These books are being removed and now the kids that can’t afford to buy books won’t have access to them,” says Elsie, 27, co-owner and education specialist.

Starting out as an idea between a mother and her 2 children, Stories Like Me was created to provide kindness, justice, equity, and inclusion in the community with the goal of children being able to see themselves through stories.

When beginning the process of creating this business, Helen wanted to make sure there is a “reflection of kindness and justice, and wanted to emulate that in the book store and in their community”

The bookstore originally began online in 2018. In May of 2022, they purchased an old doctor’s office and transformed it into a bookstore. It first opened its doors in November and there will be a grand opening on the 25th of February this year.

They began to build their business through pop ups in different communities. They would bring books that resembled the areas they were attending. Over time, meeting people and receiving recommendations through kids and teens, allowed them to create the business they have today.

Outside of selling inclusive children’s books, middle grade books, and young adult novels, Stories Like Me also holds different events. Every Sunday they hold a storytime for children focusing on different themes each week including reading in spanish once a month.

They also hold education nights where they bring in professionals like teachers and therapists so they can learn about how to incorporate inclusive books into their field. “Books are powerful because you can see different perspectives and cultures,” says Romesbergm.

Elsie reflected on a time when a family came into the store looking for a book that represented their child with a disability. They said the book “Dancing with Daddy ” by Anita Rowe Schulte was the perfect representation of their child with a disability and it highlighted their need to just be a kid.

Through their mission, Stories Like Me fights to create “a corner of the world in which all children can see themselves in the images and stories around them, creating a community of readers and storytellers who understand their own value as well as the value of others.”