Source Hampshire Gazette: Ben Herrington: Praises African-American Read-In in Amherst
Ben Herrington: Praises African-American Read-In in Amherst
On Feb. 1, I had the honor of participating in the National Council of Teachers of English-sponsored African-American Read-In at Wildwood Elementary School.
I was invited to read to a class of fifth-grade students and read “Ashanti to Zulu” by Margaret Musgrove. It is a book that is near and dear to me, as it was written by my father’s childhood friend. Not only was there a connection to me, but also to the students. It was written right down the street, at the University of Massachusetts.
This was one of many highlights of a day that celebrated literacy while kicking off Black History Month by engaging students and fostering cultural competency. In 1989, the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English solidified plans for a national read-in program that would increase literacy among young African-American readers by celebrating literary elements of African-American culture. Not just limited to readings, but also incorporating the arts, the program began in 1990 and continues today.
In Amherst, it was an annual tradition at Mark’s Meadow Elementary School and found its way to Wildwood via Principal Nick Yaffe. This year, along with special guests readers in each classroom, came a touching opening assembly that blended elements of traditional songs with current hits that the students could relate to.
The energy generated from the event crossed all cultural boundaries and was well received by the staff, faculty and student body. In addition to the impressive lineup of guests, the receptiveness of the students was absolutely inspiring.
The value of such a program across the entire district would be well worth the effort. It is a perfect way to kick off Black History Month by celebrating the diversity found within our public schools.
Programs like the African-American Read-In serve as a major educational asset without adversely impacting a school’s budget. The National Council of Teachers of English provides all the resources to get started and no two events need follow the same format. I would love to see more schools in the district take part in the read-in next year.
The writer is a candidate for Amherst School Committee.