Tag Archives: classroom texts

Literature and the African American Read-In

AARI_180To be recognized as an official African American Read-In Host, it’s easy as I,2,3:

  1. Select books, poems, speeches (anything) authored by African Americans;
  2. Hold your event during the month of February; and
  3. Report results by submitting an African American Read-In Report Card.

The first step is to choose a piece written by an African American author. NCTE has a Resolution on the Need for Diverse Children’s and Young Adult Books.

The African American Read-In Toolkit provides a variety of resources to help support both individual hosts and hosting organizations implement and promote African American Read-In programs. Included in the toolkit are a number of booklists including one that was crowdsourced at an NCTE Annual Convention.

The September 2016 #NCTEchat was on the topic of Black Girls’ LiteraciesDetra Price-Dennis compiled a list of Black Girls’ Literacies Resources that were shared during #NCTEchat.

Tune in to the Text Messages podcast episode #weneeddiversebooks to hear about recently-published YA titles that celebrate diversity in a range of genres. There’s something for every reader here: comic book superheroes, Civil Rights history, love stories, humorous essays, poetry, artwork, and stories of suspense.

What titles would you add to these lists?

Celebrate African American Writers throughout February

AARI_180Join over a million readers as part of the Twenty-Sixth National African American Read-In in February 2015! The Read-In is sponsored by the Black Caucus of NCTE and NCTE. Throughout February, schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens are urged to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins in their communities. Hosting a Read-In can be as simple as bringing together friends to share a book, or as elaborate as arranging public readings and media presentations that feature professional African American writers

The first event was scheduled for a single Sunday afternoon in February, now it happens across the country all month long. You can learn more about how to start a read in here. And you can find a list of examples of how others have done Read-Ins here. Listen to an interview with AARI founder Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott, NCTE Deputy Executive Director Mila Fuller, and NCTE member Jennifer Watson as they talk about the 25th National African American Read-In: “A Opportunity to Expand Perspectives.”

The following links can get you started and provide resources as your students read and explore the works of these African American writers.

For more ideas, see the ReadWriteThink.org Calendar entry for the African American Read-In which includes more lesson plans, classroom activities, and online resources. The ReadWriteThink.org Text Messages podcast “Celebrating the African American Read-In” by provides recommendations of both old and new titles by distinguished African American authors who write for teens. Featured books range from historical novels to contemporary explorations of African American life in both urban and suburban settings.

How will you be celebrating the African American Read-In?

10 Classroom Activities to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial --  Washington (DC) December 2011Spend the days leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, on January 19, with classroom resources focused on Dr. King and texts he wrote. The materials below, pulled from the ReadWriteThink site, range from mini-lessons to complete units and cross all grade levels.

So read on, and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work with these activities:

  1. In 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on this day. (Grades K–12)
    Students study Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and work in groups to create a mural that depicts Dr. King’s vision of peace.
  2. Exploring the Power of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Words through Diamante Poetry (Grades 9–12)
    Students explore the ways that powerful and passionate words communicate the concepts of freedom, justice, discrimination, and the American Dream in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
  3. Entering History: Nikki Giovanni and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Grades 6–8)
    Nikki Giovanni’s poem “The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.” is paired with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, taking students on a quest through time to the Civil Rights movement.
  4. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. (Grades K–12)
    Students explore the “I Have a Dream” Foundation’s website and brainstorm ways they can help themselves or others at their school achieve their educational dreams.
  5. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Me: Identifying with a Hero (Grades K–2)
    This lesson provides ideas for celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by encouraging students to explore the connections between Dr. King and themselves through journaling and inquiry-based research.
  6. Living the Dream: 100 Acts of Kindness (Grades K–2)
    This lesson provides the “action piece” for any study of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this project, students participate in Dr. King’s dream by doing 100 acts of kindness.
  7. How Big Are Martin’s Big Words? Thinking Big about the Future (Grades 3–5)
    Inspired by the book Martin’s Big Words, students explore information on Dr. King to think about his “big” words, then they write about their own “big” words and dreams.
  8. Analyzing Famous Speeches as Arguments (Grades 9–12)
    Students identify the rhetorical strategies in a famous speech and the specific purpose for each chosen device.
  9. Every Punctuation Mark Matters: A Minilesson on Semicolons (Grades 6–8)
    Students analyze stylistic choices and grammar use in authentic writing, focusing on the use of the semicolon in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
  10. I Have a Dream: Exploring Nonviolence in Young Adult Texts (Grades 9–12)
    Students will identify how Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of nonviolent conflict-resolution is reinterpreted in modern texts. Homework is differentiated to prompt discussion on how nonviolence is portrayed through characterization and conflict. Students will be formally assessed on a thesis essay that addresses the Six Kingian Principles of Nonviolence.

[Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial — Washington (DC) December 2011 by Ron Cogswell, on Flickr]

Literature Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Book stack with magnifying glass on topCensorship in schools isn’t just about what books make it into a reading list. It’s also about whether we trust the professional judgment of the educators who are tasked with creating those lists.

A common misconception in society and the world of schools is that this judgment can somehow be made quantitatively—through “trusted sources” like the Motion Picture Association of America, Common Sense Media, or Bookalachi. The trouble with these sites is that they count “offenses” found in individual parts of the text (e.g., how the characters may be less than desirable people or how many “F bombs” or nude scenes appear) and offer their tallies under advisement to parents—not to schools or libraries.

The NCTE Position Statement Regarding Rating or “Red-Flagging” Books explains why such rating systems just don’t work for schools, whose main job, of course, is education:

“Red-flagging” privileges the concerns of would-be censors over the professional judgment of teachers and librarians who review and select the books for their students. . . .

NCTE believes that literature is more than the sum of its parts and has developed policies that strongly discourage censorship. Letter ratings and “red-flagging” is a blatant form of censorship; the practice reduces complex literary works to a few isolated elements—those that some individuals may find objectionable—rather than viewing the work as a whole.

We select the texts we use in our classrooms to meet the aims of our courses and curricula. At the same time, we look for texts that are appropriate for our readers, texts that will interest and engage them and push them to think beyond their own local worlds. It’s not as clean a process as scanning a text and counting curse words—it’s a thoughtful, collaborative process that leads to deeper learning for everyone involved. Check out NCTE’s Guidelines for Selection of Materials in English Language Arts Programs to learn more.