ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A UCF graduate is spreading messages of love, diversity and inclusion through books.
Ashleigh Taylor is a stock broker by day, but after work she brokers books.
"It's definitely not my day job, but it's been a very interesting passion that I have fallen into," Taylor said.
Taylor, 25, said she was deeply impacted by recent events, including the unrest following George Floyd’s death and recent antisemitic comments made by celebrities on social media.
But instead of just posting her thoughts on social media, Taylor decided to take action. She posted a video on her Instagram story calling on her friends, family and followers to help her spread the message of diversity and acceptance.
"I figured I loved hearing the diverse stories when I was in elementary school and I figured, 'Hey these stories I remember to this day. Why not shape a child's memory, their education, their values on how they view other people by providing a book to their teacher?'" she said.
Her goal was to donate one book a month to a teacher. Less than one week since starting her project, Taylor said she has received donations from all over, allowing her to donate more than 50 books to classrooms across the country.
"I've sent books to North Dakota, Massachusetts, Virginia, everywhere," she said.
She said she matches the books to the students' reading levels. She said the books focus on a wide variety of topics, like race, religion, and gender.
Taylor hopes these books teach students valuable lessons.
"One: that they have a positive representation of themselves so they can see themselves in a book and say, 'That's me,' and they can look up to something," Taylor said. "The second thing is I just really want them to see that there are people out there that don't like like them, don't think like them, don't pray like them and have those people shown in a positive light."
Taylor said the teachers are grateful for the donation and excited to read to their students. She adds she knows these books can make a difference in their lives.
"What matters is when you grow up, are you going to be a good person who treats people well? And I think that's something that teachers have so much influence over, especially through reading," she said.
Anyone interested in helping with Taylor’s book donations or teachers who want to receive a book can contact her on Instagram @ashleighisobel.