Black History : Literacy


I’ve planned Read Ins both in the high school in Indianapolis where I was a school librarian and on campus at Indiana State University. I think my most memorable was the first one at ISU, tucked in the Lower Level of the Library. We planned a 3 hour event so that as many people as possible could pass through and hear Black literature being read aloud. The Provost, the President, faculty members and students select something to read to the audience. The President’s wife, a former school teacher, read a children’s book. I don’t remember what the Library Dean chose to read, but I remember her singing to us as part of the selection. We had selections from speeches made in the US and in different African countries, poetry, essays and even pieces of fiction. And, there was food! I remember students volunteering to do whatever they could to help with the event and I remember hearing from them how much what they heard meant to them. I remember Tiandra emailing to tell me how personal the selection she chose became to her and the pride she began to feel because of it.

Read Ins don’t have to be huge 3 hour events. they are simply meant to be an oral sharing of Black literature. I think the only requirements are that they be held in February and feature works by Black authors that are read aloud. Classroom teachers can invite students to read from their favorite Black author or they can provide the opportunity for African American students to share their own work out loud. Local or national Black authors can be invited to read from their work in libraries or community centers. Image what is being communicated when a university president, city councilperson or business owner, regardless of their race, takes the time to come read Black literature to a gathered audience.

The Black Council of the National Council of Teachers of English really knew what they were doing when they put this event together 29 years ago. Literacy is transformative. Being able to read the world is how we learn to navigate it and it’s necessary for all of us to come together to appreciate the presence of the Black voice in this world. As part of our Read In on campus, we always include art work because reading images is literacy, too.

I didn’t get to plan an event this year. I hate to say I was too busy for this important event, but that’s the simple truth of it. My time got away from me. In writing this, though and reflecting on the event in years past, I just want to email a few folx and ask them to bring a book, meet up and have a little Read In.

Here’s where you can find more information on planning your Read In.





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