Solvang third-grader thinks outside the box by going inside a crayons box
A Solvang Elementary School third-grader is redrawing how diversity is taught by raising money for boxes of multicultural crayons and books to donate to local schools.
Madison Wilson hopes her fundraising campaign, known as “Madi’s Treasure Box,” will help students of all colors of skin accurately draw and learn about themselves in school.
“All I see in a crayon box is usually just black, a type of brown and then white. Why not have lots of browns and lots of shades?” Madison told the News-Press.
Madison’s mother, Vashti Wilson, said Madison got her idea for Madi’s Treasure Box after asking her about why most movies don’t have actors and actresses that look like her. From there, their conversation moved on to art supplies, crayons and books.
While her mother explained the amount of underrepresentation minorities experience, Madison learned about Crayola’s new 24-pack of multicultural crayons called Colors of the World, which will be released in July.
“Even when she wants something, I ask like, ‘What work are you going to do to get that? And how do you build up to get it?’ so for this it was, ‘What work can you do?’ ” Ms. Wilson told the News-Press. “My thing is always a solution, so, ‘What can we do, Madison?’ to get these crayons and books to your school?”
Following their conversation, Madison asked her mother if she could start fundraising to donate these crayons to her school by selling snacks at Solvang’s Juneteenth celebration, where the third-grader even gave a speech about her fundraiser and why the donation of these crayons is important to her.
“This has all been her,” Ms. Wilson said.
In just a few days, Madison was able to exceed her original goal of $3,000 and now has a new goal of $10,000.
In addition to crayons, Madison is using the money to purchase multicultural books from local book stores to donate to the schools as well.
“Books bring out such joy and pictures and lots of cool words, and then these characters are awesome. I just want to learn more about them,” Madison said.
“My goal is to donate 500 books with all sorts of main characters,” Madison said.
Ms. Wilson said the goal is to have teachers select 10 to 15 books from a list of both Madison’s favorite books as well as a list of books for all ages that aim to promote diversity and inclusion.
“It’s very important for them to see themselves in these books,” Ms. Wilson said. “And not just one type of child you know? So we are very intentional about getting books that represent different appearances and cultures and people.”
Madison’s efforts have even been noticed by Solvang Mayor Ryan Toussaint, who on June 26 donated $700 in support of Madison’s campaign as well as called upon other city council members to match donations going forward.
“It’s so important to start exposing our children to diversity at a young age,” Mr. Toussaint told the News-Press. “If this had always been done, imagine how all-inclusive our communities would organically be. I, myself, as a gay man, might have had a very different experience growing up in the Santa Ynez Valley, had I been able to see myself represented in the literature available at school.”
As a black woman, Ms. Wilson said she shared experiences similar to Mayor Toussaint’s as she grew up reading her favorite books like “Sweet Valley High.”
“Even though I loved the books, I knew that could never be me because I was not blonde-haired and blue-eyed,” Ms. Wilson said. “So it was always on the outside looking in when reading these books because the person never described anyone like me.”
Ms. Wilson said she and Madison receive calls and emails every day with more schools asking to come on board. Due to this, she said they are also looking into helping schools model Madison’s campaign so they can start doing it in their own communities.
“It’s a way for children to feel from a very young age that they are included,” Ms. Wilson said. “It seems like a small thing, until you’re the person that has to come up against this constantly.”
As of June 30, Madison has raised almost $6,000, which is enough to provide Madi’s Treasure Box donations to three local schools. Recently, they have extended their donation deadline to July 15.
To help Madison reach her $10,000 goal, donate on her site at https://gofundme.com/f/madis-treasure-box.