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Feb. 5, 2007

Media Center holds African American read-in

by Priyanka Gokhale, Online Editor-in-Chief
As a way to ring in Black History month, the Media Center held a read-in with books by black authors, books with black characters and books dealing with racial tension during sixth period today. About 150 students from eight classes attended the event, which was organized by media specialist Lisa Hack and English teacher Valerie Josenhans.

Blair's read-in was one of many African American read-ins that took place yesterday and today. The nationwide event, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and in its 18th year, takes place in schools, libraries and other organizations.

The teachers participating in the read-in took their students to the media center shortly after the bell signaled the start of sixth period. Tables featured a wide array of fiction and non-fiction, ranging from works by Maya Angelou to analyses of the American racial divides. The books suited readers "from earliest ESOL to college," said media specialist Andrea Lamphier.

After choosing books and listening to a brief introduction by Hack, students began to read. After reading silently for 20 to 25 minutes, classes filed out. Many of the teachers planned to discuss the books during the remainder of class. Josenhans, whose classes are currently doing outside reading by and featuring black writers, said that the event "seemed like a perfect tie in."

Josenhans found out about the read-in in an e-mail sent by the NCTE earlier this year. She proposed the idea to Hack, and the two of them began making preparations as second semester began. According to Hack, the idea was also popular with many of the teachers, who began signing up to bring their classes in. "Teachers were very enthusiastic," she said. "We had to turn teachers away."

Hack believes that the read-in will benefit kids in a "range of grades and abilities" because black literature is no longer too pedantic for the average reader. "It used to be that there were not many low-level books by black authors, and now, that's exploded," she said.

A main goal of the read-in, according to Josenhans, was to expose students to new, different authors. "I think [it's important] for kids to see just how many African American writers there are out there," she said. Sophomore Andre Mons, who read the book "Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America," by John McWhorter, said that the event helped expose him to new books and authors. "It gave a big opportunity to get different books and read different authors," he said. "It got me interested in reading by myself rather than just reading what I have to in class." Mons checked his book out and plans on reading it on his own time.

Though Josenhans says that this is the first year that the read-in has been held at Blair, both she and Hack would like to make it an annual event. Hack also hopes that in future years, the read-in becomes a day-long affair, with classes coming in during every block of the day. With the limited time for planning, the full day schedule was not possible this year.

The teachers who participated in this year's read-in were:
Lansing Freeman
Valerie Josenhans
Lauren Nestuk
Lisa Seid
Carole Tomayko
David Whitacre
Audrey Wilson
Ailish Zompa

To get more information about the NCTE's nationwide read-in, click here.



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  • George Smith on February 6, 2007 at 3:58 PM
    "A main goal of the read-in, according to Josenhans, was to expose students to new, different authors."

    If that were the case, why did students read only black authors?

    "I think [it's important] for kids to see just how many African American writers there are out there," she said.

    It's not important for kids to see how many other writers there are out there? Why just black writers?

    " by John McWhorter, said that the event helped expose him to new books and authors. "It gave a big opportunity to get different books and read different authors," he said. "It got me interested in reading by myself rather than just reading what I have to in class."

    Again, what does this have to do with Black writers. If the media center is so concerned with students reading period, it should have these days regardless of whether or not its Black History Month. If the media center is concerned with adding diversity to students' reading schedules, why not look at all races and ethnicities? Why just black authors and characters?

    The fact that an all day "black book" day is being considered is laughable. All it does is send the message of how different we all are. I believe we are all equal and I think it's time we stop glorifying one race if we're not going to glorify all of them.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on February 6, 2007 at 6:19 PM
    I'm going to be brief, I could write for pages and pages, but I won't. We read black authors in English classes, there are plenty in the media center and public libraries. It gets me mad when people identify themselves as "African American" authors. If they really wanted equality, they wouldn't try to make the point of being different. Sure don't deny you're black, but do white authors make a point that they are white? If you want equality, having a month set aside for one race is not the way to go. Black history month is simply a horrible idea that doesn't make sense in a time where we should be focusing on including all races, white, black, and others every month of the year.
  • Someone you may know on February 6, 2007 at 6:40 PM
    Why aren't students exposed to a diverse group of authors to begin with? The school system should be trying to show students all types of authors during the entire year, not just Black authors specifically during Black History Month.

    Why not emphasize reading books by Asian authors during May? Or Native American authors during November? Or Hispanic authors during September/October? By choosing only to acknowledge Black authors during their month of recognition, we are placing Black authors on a higher pedestal than authors of other ethnicities.
  • Feminist on February 6, 2007 at 7:33 PM
    Black History Month isn't about "putting blacks on a pedestal" or about segregation of any kind. There's a reason that "History" is in the title -- because it's celebrating the history of a group of people with a long, rich history, in the same way that Women's, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American History Months do. The real problem here has nothing to do with the read-in itself -- it's that, as "someone you may know" says, kids aren't exposed to diverse authors all throughout the year.
  • eh on February 6, 2007 at 8:28 PM
    i think that we are exposed to a great variety of writers at blair
  • bob on February 6, 2007 at 9:58 PM
    Libertarian:

    There is a significant difference between "equality" and "homogeneity."

    Though we all may share the same rights, we do not share the same heritage.

    To fully understand ourselves and others, it is important that we read and recognize literatures from alternate perspectives. This has nothing to do with civil rights or societal imbalances. This is identifying who we are in the context of our world.
  • (View Email) on February 6, 2007 at 11:08 PM
    What about white history month?
  • bored on February 7, 2007 at 8:17 AM
    i was at the "read in" and it was incredibly boring. no one was taking it seriously, obviously. what would you do if your techer randomly said, hey let's all go to the library to red books you don't care about?
  • Social Democrat on February 7, 2007 at 2:25 PM
    While black history may seem pressed into your brain, for a very long time it was not even disscussed in schools. There was no black history or culture taught in schools. We have a black history month because in most cases, it's the only time studnets are given the opportunitiy to study blakc history. The history of slavery and oppression might be very familiar to you Libertarian, but for many sutdnets it's not. That's why we have black history month, not to "put blacks on a pedastal," but to teach students and others about the world around them. While you argue that we should be getitng past race, black history month is not necessarily about having dark skin, it's about an identity that society has created. While we all want to eliminate race and its effects, race has created sperate cultures that no one can deny the existence of. They only way to eliminate our predjudices about other cultures is to learn about them.
  • ... on February 7, 2007 at 3:31 PM
    well said, social democrat, i couldn't agree more
  • Libertarian (View Email) on February 7, 2007 at 4:39 PM
    "Libertarian:

    There is a significant difference between "equality" and "homogeneity."

    Though we all may share the same rights, we do not share the same heritage.

    To fully understand ourselves and others, it is important that we read and recognize literatures from alternate perspectives. This has nothing to do with civil rights or societal imbalances. This is identifying who we are in the context of our world." - Bob

    So are you saying we don't read and recognize black authors at other times? How would you feel about a white history month?

    "That's why we have black history month, not to "put blacks on a pedastal," but to teach students and others about the world around them." - Social Democrat

    We should be doing this all 12 months, not just 1. We should focus on studying authors of all races (and I think Blair does) whether it's black history month or not. Again, should we do white history month to recognize the acheivments of white authors?
  • curlstaff (View Email) on February 7, 2007 at 7:40 PM
    I have heard many people ask, "why no white history month?" It's simple. There is no need to celebrate white history/culture because we are immersed in it every day in this country
  • ay on February 7, 2007 at 8:04 PM
    dont knock Black History Month because it was established with much triumph. It was dedicated because back in the day, blacks were excluded from history lessons for the most part. it was made so black people's part of US history was learned.

    If it is a matter of unequal celebration in your opinion, push for Asian, Hispanic, and Native American Months to be celebrated by Blair. other schools do, so it's not like the months are not celebrated other places. my sister's elementary school celebrates all of the heritage months and it gives the students a sense of tolerance at an early age, from my observation.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on February 8, 2007 at 12:01 AM
    "I have heard many people ask, "why no white history month?" It's simple. There is no need to celebrate white history/culture because we are immersed in it every day in this country" - curlstaff

    Really? Are you talking school or society? In school do you really mean that outside of February you read nothing by black authors (considering I read at least 2 books dealing with slavery by black authors with black narrators, one a former slave, last semester, I definately did). If you're talking about society you've got to be kidding me. MTV, BET (specifically an entertainment channel for blacks, think of the contreversy if there were a WET). There's an NAACP. Yet we still have to set aside a month for blacks? There was a time for this. That time has passed. Most people realize that black people contribute to society as much as anyone else. And the people who don't won't be convinced by one month anyway. If the school is immersing you in white culture every day, say something about that. I believe, especially given the diversity at our school, that there is very little discrimination based on skin color within our school.

    "my sister's elementary school celebrates all of the heritage months and it gives the students a sense of tolerance at an early age, from my observation." - ay

    Tolerance? Studying books based on their race is tolerance? Why not study books from all races? Wouldn't that be the ultimate lesson in tolerance? Why is it ok to study Hispanic, NA, black, etc. history months but not white history month? Not being racist, but I believe more white people have contributed to history in this country anyway. Yes I realize it is because they were enslaving blacks, yes that was horrible. My point is people of all races have contributed to history. And if there are a few more white people covered in history class, it's probably because there are more people in history that are white (remember whites ARE the majority in this country). I have seen no bias in the history/English curriculum in months other than February. I would like to know what "white history/culture" we are being immersed in everyday. Perhaps I'm just asleep for those few minutes every day.
  • african on February 8, 2007 at 8:02 PM
    it was realy amizing event .keep it up.i realy felt proud of ma self just because we have an apertunity to have this event.thank you so musch
  • M on February 12, 2007 at 8:47 PM
    ok "Libertarian" you need to chill.

    The NAACP was started to aide black people when they were suffering under jim crow and it helped ex-slaves. just because its still around doesnt mean its can be disrespected. and BET wasn't started because they wanted to be racist, it started because there was not a large makret for african americans veiwers on tv so they started their own station (mind you mtv did not become so diverse until the 90's).

    And black books are not "based" race, they are just books written by people in their environment/commnuity/culture (etc), which happens african american.

    I agree that other culture months should be celebrated at Blair just as much, but dont be mad at black history month because it was started in shadow of a dark period in u.s. history in which people had to fight to make changes for tolerance. yes it is a different day in age, but the origins of these organizations and dedications should be respected.
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