Our tip-top kind of core value is it’s all about empowerment. And for us empowerment simply means that we believe everyone has what it takes to be great and to contribute something meaningful and contribute their unique gifts and talents to this world. And so they all kind of center from that [in terms of] how we go about achieving this kind of empowerment and breaking down barriers and building on everyone’s strengths from that, to each child that we work with to every teacher that we work with, to our colleagues, and all of our community partners.
And really these core values, what they really bring is a love and joy for this work, and it kind of infuses everything that we do. When people kind of walk into Make Way For Books, they’re kind of like, “Whoa, this place is, like, Hope Central.” And I’m, like, “Yeah,” because we live and breathe these core values. We really are so passionate and caring about what we do, that we think through how it is we do what we do, constantly.
And what’s cool about operating with these core values is that that reflective culture isn’t just the people at Make Way For Books, the staff and the volunteers. We infuse that into our processes with everyone, with our educators. We work with 700 early-childhood educators and parents. And so in everything we do, whether it’s through coaching with our educators or in our parent classes there’s a there’s an element of reflection built into every session and everything that we do, because that’s really how you make learning conscious, for children, for ourselves. So it really is about seeing it as a journey. Like, we’re all in this together, and so constantly reflecting. And that actually improves all kinds of results, because it becomes this really integrated process. So we really take our reflecting in our journey seriously here.
So in the parent realm it’s kind of like, “I thought my kid didn’t like to read.” Well, your child is 2, and what you think reading is isn’t sitting. It isn’t sitting for 15 to 20 minutes. So it’s a lot of just breaking down those initial ideas of what reading should look like. And it’s really like, “Well no, this is what reading is”, and these are wonderful opportunities for language development, and the opportunity to develop social-emotional skills. And so it really stems from all that, that books also themselves provide these wonderful opportunities to connect on such deep levels.
And I think that’s one thing we emphasize a lot, is that how you read the book matters so much with young children. You know, really giving them enough time to respond and pause, and really having deep conversations about books even with our 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, and asking them really kind of higher-level questions that they can answer. You know it’s not just, like, “Point to the red circle.” It’s really helping because books are conversation starters, and they’re all about springboards for developing our thinking, our emotional vocabulary. And so it’s really looking at books as these incredible springboards for all kinds of activities, and that books can be a part of everything that you do. They can be in the in your play areas. And that we do a lot of work with helping teachers do really open-ended activities and using everyday items to spark conversations with language with children.
Some organizations have, like, five core values. [With] ours there’s a lot of them. And then we wanted to infuse them with pictures of what these are. So if you look on our website – and please do check them out, anyone who’s listening that wants to check out these core values, they’re are on our website in the “Who We Are” section – and you’ll see that these are photos of our children, of our parents, of our teachers. And so we came to them, and the process took almost about two months to just kind of sit with them and revise them and work them out to create something beautiful that we all are very proud of.
Another one is that we believe in leading and inspiring. Like we often call our work… we’re like a laboratory for inspiration, right? Because that’s how you create any kind of change. So with that core value we kind of reflect it and the words that are kind of underneath that core value, they simply say: “We embrace and drive change with bold vision,” because doing this kind of work to be inspirational and to really lead requires courage. And so that’s another core value is hope and courage, that we imagine and truly realize that there are infinite possibilities, and each one of us might come up with a different way. And so part of what we do together is we examine those, and we’ve also got the courage to believe that we can do it, once we decide whatever our new idea is, how we might how we might carry it through.
Another one, of course: respect is a very important core value, and there’s so much in that. Really for us respect is about love in action, truly. And we realized when we came together and started talking about these core values that that we do is based on relationships. Everything in life is based on the quality of our relationships. And really we do this work family-by-family, child-by-child, teacher-by-teacher. And every relationship matters. And so we kind of thought through, “What [does] the fabric of a successful relationship look like? How do we build trust with our parents, with our children, with our teachers, with our community partners?” And so really understanding and looking at respect as coming down to love in action and compassion, and really understanding that what we like to do at Make Room For Books is make everyone feel special, and that they’ve got something to contribute.
And then of course we do things here to with exuberance. So one of our core values is actually enthusiasm, because that’s contagious, right? If you’re out in the world doing your work and you’re doing it with joy, people want to be around that. And so we really do. Everyone here really believes in what we do, and so it’s exhibiting that passion in every day, in every interaction that you have out in the world doing your work. And so we believe that positivity, people want to be around that. It infuses everything with energy that people want to be around.
And that’s related to connection, which is another core value that we have, that we really believe in partnership and achieving common goals and really helping to be a conversation starter for our community, and creating the space to allow those important conversations and connections to happen. And then fun is of course one of our core values, and gratitude. So every week we reflect on what we’re thankful for individually, and then monthly as a group. So those are some of them. And then the last core value is one of my favourites: it’s grit. And it simply says with that core value, we decided to write, “We persevere. Period.” And it’s this just gorgeous picture of this little boy, Asa. It was his last day of participating in one of our literacy programs, and he’s ready for kindergarten. So it’s just his really beautiful, determined face. And so really everyone here is really about rolling up their sleeves and figuring out what it is to do so that we always persevere and can make that impact that we want to make.
And so there’s buy-in because, first of all, everyone creates them and they aren’t just posted on the wall. We use them. This is how we design our work in the community. Our programs are built on this. So for example, you mentioned the book Grit, and the work of Angela Duckworth. So we teach consciously about grit to our teachers and to our parents, so we have our parents understanding what a growth and fixed mindset is. So on some level these are built into everything that we do, both with our partners and with ourselves. And we’ll weigh actions that we’re choosing to do. We’ll decide, “Are we going to go forward with this?” We weigh it against our core values, like, “How does this fit in?”
And so all of our team leaders care about these and believe in them. And so everyone is kind of operating… we always go back to this to these values. And they’re actually living in our building. We have this one room where we all make decisions. They’re life-sized, they’re a whole, entire wall. You have to make them. You infuse them and kind of everything you do when you weigh your actions and your decisions against these core values. And we also talk about people… we reflect here how we’ve exhibited these core values. Every week we not only talk about how we’re grateful, but what we’re proud of. “What were you particularly proud of, this week, having accomplished? And which core value does that relate to?” So people actually are always reflecting on these.
And also people know that they’re living and breathing and we could change these. Because these could change, and we could say, “You know what? I think it should be this instead of that.” And the core values, we didn’t just decide, like, “Oh these are great things, let’s just write them down.” They were on some level already inherent in the way we were doing things. But it was important for me – for us – to articulate them so they could become this living, breathing culture, and really inform the culture of what we do at Make Way For Books, if that makes sense.
And I think the other thing that came out of that for me was, as a leader of an organization or a company or a child care program, if you are going to come up with your core values you have to be committed and responsible for being accountable to those going forward.
Well, this is really an inspirational conversation. These are phenomenal, phenomenal core values and an awesome organization. I would love for listeners to go to Make Way For Books and read up a little bit more about this. And what is your website, Jenny?
Awesome. Thanks, Jenny.