National African American Read-In Toolkit
Hosting an African American Read-In can be as simple or elaborate as the event you wish to put together. Below you’ll find a host of resources to get you started, but know that every event is truly unique!
What is a Read-In?
During the month of 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 an African American Read-In. Hosting an event 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.
Where do events take place?
Read-Ins can happen just about anywhere, from homes, to libraries, to schools, to community centers and beyond. Each year NCTE asks event-holders to fill out a “report card” giving us details on where the event took place, how many people participated, and what books were read. You can see a current listing of 2018 events here or a listing of events from 2017 here.
If you host an event this year, we invite you to fill out a report card once it’s over. This form will close on March 15, so we ask that you enter your information by then.
What do you do for an African American Read-In?
The format of these events varies widely, but all events have a few things in common:
- Texts written by African American authors are shared.
- Participants either listen to or provide the readings.
- A count is taken of who attends, and that count is documented in the “report card” as a measure of the global reach of this program each year.
Beyond these commonalities, events have included:
- Readings by authors
- Poetry slams
- Musical acts
- A common reading in advance of a single text, like a book club
- Writing and the sharing of that writing by participants
- Featured guests such as local leaders or community heroes
- Book drives to collect books by African American authors to share with schools
- Media coverage to raise the profile of local authors
- Ongoing community outreach after the event that spreads the love of literacy
- Awards of recognition for African American authors within the community
What books are good to read?
It’s a sign of the success of programs like the African American Read-In and other campaigns to support diverse authors that the answer to this question is slowly growing each year. Here are some booklists from previous years that might spark your interest, but these are by no means comprehensive.
One important note to consider: the African American Read-In was started specifically to create a bigger audience for African American authors. So in the spirit of supporting this core mission, these booklists do not include texts that feature African American characters but that are not written by African American authors.
- NCTE Convention Attendees’ Favorites
- NCTE Publications Written by African American Authors
- AARI Frequently Read Books
- Supplemental List for Young Adults and Adults
- Supplemental List for Young Children
- The Farrell J. Chiles Collection
Are there materials I can distribute?
Over the years, several articles have been written about the Read-In, and we have a few materials that make nice printouts to share. Feel free to use any and all of the resources listed below.
- African American Read-In Postcard (updated 1.25.18)
- Bookmarks – Black-and-White Version (updated 2.1.18)
- Bookmarks – Color Version (updated 2.1.18)
- Host an African American Read-In Flyer (added 2.1.18)
- 2018 Participation Certification
Articles and Press
- Aronson, D. (2014). The African American Read-In marks 25 years by looking forward. The Council Chronicle 24(2), 18.
- Collier, L. (2016). Falling in love with books at the African American Read-In. The Council Chronicle 26(2), 14.
- Watson, J. (2014). Enjoying the voices and witnessing the power of African American literature: Celebrating the AARI at Octorara High School. The Council Chronicle 24(2), 19.
- Black History Month Ideas from NCTE by School Library Journal
- Reflections on the African American Read-In (Tiffany Flowers and Kimberly Frazier)
- Hosting an African American Read-In Online (Tiffany Flowers)
- Black Girls Read: An African American Read-In Celebrating the African American Female Literary Legacies of the Past, Present, and Future (Thais Council)
- What Students Can Learn from the African American Read-In (Tiffany Flowers)
- African American Read-In 2016 and Beyond . . . (Tiffany Flowers)
- Celebrate African American Writers throughout February
- An Opportunity to Expand Perspectives
- To See Ourselves in Books
- Celebrating and Supporting African American Writers: The Legacy of the African American Read-In
Here is a short video by Dr. David E. Kirkland in which he explains the importance of the Read-In.
History of the National African American Read-In
At its November 1989 meeting, the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English accepted the Issues Committee’s recommendation that the Black Caucus sponsor a nationwide read-in on the first Sunday of February. At the request of educators, Monday was designated for educational institutions. Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott, an active member of NCTE and the Black Caucus, brought the idea to the committee. It was envisioned that following a decade of rigorous campaigning for participants, the African American Read-Ins would become a traditional part of Black History Month celebrations. In 1990, the National Council of Teachers of English joined in the sponsorship of the African American Read-In Chain. The commitment for nationwide promotion extends from 1990 to the present.
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“It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books.” – Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott, founder of the African American Read-In