Each year during Black History Month, the National Council of the Teachers of English kicks off the African American Read-In. This program takes place in K–12 schools, preschools, communities, and colleges around the country. It’s a great time to share the love of reading diverse literature with students.
The following recommendations on books to share during this month and a few ideas for how these texts can be used in our classrooms come from NCTE, its members, and friends.
Tyrell by Coe Booth is about Tyrell, a young African-American teen who can’t get a break. Listen to this interview with Coe Booth where she talked about how she worked through the challenges of writing, how she makes sense of her characters’ actions, and how her books challenge readers to develop critical social consciousness.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis blends the fictional account of an African American family with the factual events of the violent summer of 1963. In this graphical mapping project, students assign a value to the events, characters, and themes in this novel and think about how the elements of the story are all interconnected.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas follows sixteen-year-old Starr Carter and her movement between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. In this lesson plan, students learn about the Black Lives Matter movement and in small groups conduct/share research about social issues key to the plot, characters, and themes of the book. They then read and discuss nonfiction excerpts by James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates before synthesizing their understanding of all the texts under study through a communal idea poster and an individual synthesis and reflection project.
When I Was the Greatest is Jason Reynolds’ debut novel. It chronicles Ali’s friendship with next-door brothers Needles and Noodles, as the three prepare for the party of a lifetime—and pay the consequences for thrusting themselves into a more sordid encounter than any of them could have envisioned. Tune into this podcast episode on “Resilience Literature“ where you’ll hear about teens who are dealing with a range of obstacles and hardships. What these books all have in common is a main character who finds him or herself in a terrible situation, but finds a way to respond with strength and hope.
What other titles would be good to consider for the African American Read-In? Share on social media how you are celebrating using #AARI18!