Association Spotlights African-American Literacy in February

The National Council of Teachers of English is sponsoring the 25th annual African-American Read-In program, which helps raise awareness of African-American literary works during Black History Month.

Looking for a way to celebrate Black History Month? Try an African-American Read-In, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English.

The program, which marks its 25th anniversary this year, encourages NCTE members and the public to read and share literary works written by African-American authors.

“The main goal of the program is to make the celebration of African-American literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities,” said Mila Thomas-Fuller, CAE, deputy executive director of NCTE. “It’s also a fantastic way to raise awareness of works written by African-American authors.”

There’s no specific format for a read-in, Thomas-Fuller said. It could be as simple as reading a book or poem written by an African-American author and sharing it with a group. NCTE just asks that the read-ins take place in February and that participants track the works that were shared and how many people attended.

The association then uses “report cards” that participants send back to NCTE to track and try and improve attendance levels the following year. “We’re able to see the broad reach of the program,” Thomas-Fuller said.

NCTE is also able to track the most-read books, which last year included:

  • The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
  • Dancing With the Indians by Angela Shelf Medearis
  • Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks
  • My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris

More than a quarter of a million people participated in a read-in last year—an increase of about 75,000 participants from 2012. NCTE is not resting on those laurels, though. The association is hoping a new partnership with Barnes & Noble next year will help generate greater awareness of the program and make it easier for people to get involved in planning read-ins.

“This will give us an opportunity to make the African-American Read-In a part of our volunteer program, where members can sign up and say, ‘I’d like to volunteer for a Read-In in my state,’” Thomas-Fuller said. “And they’ll be automatically connected to a community relations representative at Barnes & Noble who will be waiting for them to begin the planning of what their February program will look like.”

The strong involvement of NCTE members stems back to the program’s roots, when a conversation among members, mostly from within the association’s black caucus, sparked the initial idea for the read-ins.

“From an association leadership perspective, this is the perfect program model for associations seeking to work more closely with member volunteers to develop mission-aligned and cause-based programs,” Thomas-Fuller said. “While the members developed the program, from an association staff perspective we have the unique opportunity to participate in the thought leadership process and move it from an idea stage to a finished program or product with members contributing along the way.”

Participants of a recent African-American Read-In in Champaign, Illinois, where author Melda Beaty (fourth from right) read from her book Lime. (NCTE/Tiffany Square)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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