By Janelle Burrell

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) – A local school counselor is on a mission to help young students get excited about learning Black history while learning to appreciate all of our differences. And she’s doing it in a creative way — one page at a time.

It started as an idea to help get students excited about reading and also interested in Black history.

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“I thought it would be really cool to read a book about voting and voting rights because up until pretty recently, not everybody was allowed to vote,” Francesca Aldrich said.

Aldrich is a school psychologist at Stockton Elementary School in the Cherry Hill School District, a district where only 8% of the students are Black.

“When I started working at the school, my whole intention was to be who I needed when I was younger, and I always wished that there was someone who looked like me when I was in elementary school,” Aldrich said.

During this time where so many children are doing at least some of their learning from home, she wanted to find a way to engage all of the district’s students – so she started a virtual Black history month book club.

“I wanted to do this book club, not just for the Black students that go to Stockton but all the students that go to Stockton because there are pieces of it that they can connect to,” Aldrich said.

“I think it was the coolest idea to celebrate Black History Month and to make it a club,” student Cameron Sheppard said.

Eleven-year-old Cameron Sheppard and 5-year-old Avry Arnold are brother and sister and attend Stockton.

Their mom said, “I think it’s really important, not just for my kids, but for all the kids in the school so that they understand that people are different and that is OK.”

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To help the students relate, Ms. Aldrich weaves in some of her own experiences.

“When I was in middle school, I wanted to sit with some of the other girls in my class and they told me I wasn’t allowed to sit with them just because I was black, and I remember being really, really sad,” Aldrich recounts.

Tackling topics like discrimination and segregation and also self-acceptance, by giving the kids activities. After reading “Hair Love,”  a book about self-acceptance — she had the students share what they love about themselves.

“You’re literally in the mind of another person, so through books, you can kind of create that sense of perspective and sense of understanding,” Aldrich said.

And a sense of inspiration, as well.

“I just wish that I could make the world a better place,” Sheppard said.

“Even though they are young, they have so much power and they can do so many things in this world,” Aldrich said.

The book club has been so encouraging to the students, teaching them confidence, empathy and history.

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The program has been so successful at Stockton Elementary, that the book club was opened to other schools in the district as well.

Janelle Burrell