Guest Blogger

African-American Read-In

Last month was chock full of holidays: Groundhog’s Day, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, President’s Day and, of course, Black History Month.  Each year, I strive to create an impactful Black History Month event for the largely African-American community in which I work.

To be honest, my results have been hit or miss.  I had a wonderfully successful program focusing on Jacqueline Woodson’s Show Way where we discussed the book and created our own family teens.  I then struck out with a similarly structured program focused on Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue.

Then I was alerted to the African-American Read-In (AARI) that a neighboring library system held yearly.  The Read-In is a creation of the National Council of the Teachers of English (NCTE).  NCTE’s website claims that the AARI “is the nation’s first and oldest event dedicated to diversity in literature.”    It was founded in 1990 by NCTE’s Black Caucus and thus far has reached over 6 million people throughout the years.

NCTE’s website has an AARI landing page that links to a toolkit to help you throw an event, a place to register your event online, and more.

On February 8th, my branch held its second African-American Read-In.  While the event is still relatively small (we have had about 20 people each year), this year I was thrilled when several middle schoolers decided to volunteer to read out loud to the group, while last year, mainly teachers and principals who attended participated in the reading.  I had put out several works from African-American poets, and they gravitated to Langston Hughes.  We even had two third graders who acted out “If You’re Happy and You Know It” from Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance Spin & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood, collected by Patricia McKissack.  The young people really took ownership this year, and I was thrilled.

Has anyone else had success with hosting an African-American Read-In?  I would love to hear further ideas.

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Head shot of guest blogger, Maria Trivisonno
Maria Trivisonno (courtesy of guest blogger)

Maria Trivisonno is a Children’s Librarian at the Warrensville Heights Branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library, and can be contacted at mtrivisonno@cuyahogalibrary.org.  She loves being an aunt, reading and discussing kids’ books, and all things Star Wars. 

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

2 comments

  1. erin wen

    I love this idea! Do you have a list of the books you used? Thank you!

  2. Maria Trivisonno

    Hi Erin! There is a list on the Toolkit page, here: http://www2.ncte.org/get-involved/african-american-read-in-toolkit2018/

    Some people liked to plan what they were going to read, but from experience I find that having a lot of picture books and poetry is helpful, because they are short. Lots of Jacqueline Woodson, Nikki Grimes, and some picture book version of poems, like Langston Hughes’ “My People” with photos from Charles Smith.

    I hope that’s helpful!

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