ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Flinn Middle School hosted its second-ever Human Library. This gives a chance for 8th graders at the school to share meaningful stories, hoping to create a safe space for conversation.
“Being able to put yourself out there and have people listen to your story and not judge you because of it,” said Aaden Jones, an 8th grader at Flinn Middle School on why he felt it was important to share his story.
Many shared extremely personal stories, stuff many people don’t realize others deal with. Aaden shared being asked to change his last name.
“Now I know it would be an adoption paper, but I didn’t know what it was back then. So the adoption paper was, you know, him come in and having me switch my name over from Petersen to Jones,” he said.
In the second year, the event doubled in size organizers said. Something Aaden hopes will continue to grow.
“I’ve had someone adopt me and go through all these stages in my life to get to know me and raise me. Not many people have that experience,” he shared. “I want to share it with them and they would see what I’ve been through and what I’ve grown up with.”
Cara Wolfe is a teacher at Flinn. She helped put the event together.
“We know that if we want a more equitable society, we have to allow the platform for every person to share their story and who they are,” Wolfe said. “It’s also a way to promote tolerance and acceptance as well, to get to know one another and not to judge someone, especially if maybe we have a stereotype about a certain individual to understand who we are as a person.
Students shared some happy times, but others shared some of their most traumatic experiences. Losing loved ones, witnessing violence, and even being evicted from their home were some of the few. The students are able to share personal moments. The listener, is able to open their eyes to what people may be dealing with.
“Some people don’t have the courage to like, do stuff like this,” said Jamaree’a Flint another 8th grader at the school. “And courage even to share a story to people that they don’t know.”
“It’s really good because we get to like, tell our stories to grown ups and it’s not really like that. It’s usually like grown ups teaching kids. We’re like now we’re like teaching grown ups.” said another 8th grader, Firdaus Kibaya.
The idea of a human library began in Sweden, and now according to teachers its a staple at Flinn Middle School.