In November 1989, the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English came together to set the first Sunday of February as a nationwide Read-In to promote diverse reading habits. Fast forward to February 2017, and libraries are still participating in African American Read-Ins. Librarians can choose any day in the month of February, and we at Severn decided on February 17th.
Collection of Books By African American Authors
Let’s Get to Reading
The event was open to any teacher, student, or staff member looking to read works by African American authors throughout the day. Poems, short stories, magazines, and novels were offered, featuring authors like Walter Dean Myers, Maya Angelou, Sharon Draper, and Langston Hughes. Some popular choices included Life Doesn’t Frighten Me At All, Twelve Rounds to Glory, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and MLK: Journey of a King. Students cozied up on bean bag chairs while snacking on cookies and listening to John Coltrane. Afterwards, they shared their readings in the forum, giving them the chance to discuss with peers.
Students Reading and Sharing Ideas in the Forum
Reflections from the Day
“One of the things librarians love to do is to help students find books they love. I heard a sixth grade plop down into a comfy chair this morning and exclaim “what a cool book!” If students don’t have the opportunity to sit and relax with a book of their choosing, they are on track to be an adult who does not enjoy reading later on. So this is part of our effort to help students become lifelong readers.” – Mary Coutts, Head Librarian
Students and teachers alike reveled in the chance to read something new and relax in the welcoming atmosphere of the library. We would certainly call the African American Read-In a success!
Library Decorations Included Poems, Author’s Last Names, and Quotations
Banned or Challenged?
When someone feels that a book should not be read by others in a school or library, they can challenge the book and asked to have it removed. When that happens, librarians and school officials follow a procedure to decide whether or not that book should be removed. The book is actually banned when it has been removed. If a book is banned or challenged in one library, school, county or school district, that does not necessarily mean that it will be banned in other areas. Here at Severn, we don’t believe in the practice of banning books from our library, but some books have been challenged in the past.
A Shift in Why People Ban Books
For years, books have typically been banned or challenged for controversial language or sexual themes. But according to James LaRue, Director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, “there’s been a shift toward seeking to ban books focused on issues of diversity—things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities.”
Why is this happening? Could it be that books that focus on diversity simply weren’t on the shelves before? And now that they are, they are subject to censorship? Which is worse?
How Can I Help?
Read banned books! Read diverse books! Start a conversation. Share stories of diversity in your own lives and encourage your friends to do the same. Speak up for what you believe is right. Talk to your parents! Talk to your teachers! Find out why these books are banned or challenged, then READ THEM and make your own choice.
Get thinking! Think about the difference between your personal choices or opinions and more general rules for everyone. Is it right for someone who doesn’t like ideas in a book to prevent other people from reading it? Why or why not?
What is the Upper School Read?
Upper School Read day is an annual Severn School tradition that brings our community together to dive into relevant and often controversial topics in literature. A committee of students and faculty choose a book for the read that inspires critical thought and reflection. All Upper School faculty and students then read it over the summer and participate in engaging workshops to investigate themes represented in the book. This year we read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and it was a huge success!
Chosen by a committee of teachers and students.
Which book would you save if you could only save one?
Themes represented in Fahrenheit 451 center around technology and censorship. Bradbury said to his own biographer, “Fahrenheit 451 is less about Big Brother and more about Little Sister.” It’s as much about society’s lack of interest in reading and critical thought as it is about government control. Who is to blame, us or them? Most likely both. Some critique that Bradbury flip flops in his interpretation of his own work. But maybe that’s what good literature does. It grows and changes as our world does the same.
The day was shaped by exciting and thought provoking workshops where teachers and students explored topics in censorship and technology. The biggest hit was our 451 Scavenger Hunt where kids worked in groups to solve puzzles and find hidden banned books all the while holding onto a jump rope fire hose (use your imagination folks!).
Each year the Upper School Read brings a new opportunity for students and teachers to explore their own interests and opinions, while learning from each other. For a look back at previous Upper School Read days, check out the summaries on our library website.
We are excited to announce the Book Face Swap Contest winner, middle school student Daniel Berlin! Daniel took a different approach than we expected when we created this contest. He swapped the faces of people on the book cover using Adobe Photoshop Fix — so well in fact that we had to compare the original to see the swap! Take a close look, can you tell which is which?
Of course we have to give a shout out to everyone who participated. These were made using either Snapchat or Face Swap Booth. The swaps turned out a little freaky and a lot of fun! We even took a shot at it ourselves!
To celebrate National Poetry Month, Mrs. Coutts and Ms. Etchison have been rolling up their sleeves to get a little crafty, a little creative and very poetic with Middle School English classes!
There’s something heartwarming about a group of kids sitting on the floor and reading poetry. And even better than that is what grew out of those lessons! A poet-tree in full bloom with original and quoted works, black-out poetry inspired by poetic beauty already on the page … and hopefully some newfound love for the many types of poetry out there.
Come take a look! If you feel inspired, add a leaf to our poet-tree or create your own black-out poetry and we’ll post it!
The ALA just released the list of most frequently challenged books of 2015 and David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing is in at number ten.
Two Boys Kissing is the story of two boys who set out to win a Guinness World Record for kissing, as they try to figure out who they are and what they mean to each other. It’s based on real life events.
This award winning book was challenged for condoning public displays of affection. As Book Rioter Leila Roy put it “I would like to know if the individual who challenged Two Boys Kissing because it ‘condones public displays of affection’ also took issue with… PRETTY MUCH EVERY OTHER BOOK THAT FEATURES A LOVE STORY EVER.”
Read more about why this book was challenged in this article from School Library Journal.
We love the diversity this book represents. Come check it out, read it and tell us what you think.
Here’s what you do:
- Find a book with a face on it.
- Use whatever face swap app you like: Snapchat, Face Swap Booth, Masquerade … you can even do it yourself with Photoshop.
- Swap faces.
- Save, print or screenshot your face swap and submit it to Ms. Lewis.
The best, funniest and most clever book face swaps will win a fantastic prize!
Good luck to you all!