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Elementary Schools Host African American Read-Ins

Every February, across the country and throughout CHCCS, schools host guests for  African American Read-Ins to celebrate black authors, illustrators, narratives and characters. All 11 of the district’s elementary schools have participated in this annual tradition for years. Here are highlights from three schools.

Carrboro Elementary School (CES) has been serving children since 1957, the second oldest elementary school in the district. Now a few students are grandchildren of the first generation of Cubs; many former CES students have remained in the community, and occasionally they return for Read-Ins. This year it took place on February 19 with readers in all 24 classrooms. 

In Esther Devesa’s fourth grade classroom, the Rev. Nate Davis read "Salt in His Shoes" by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn Jordan. The book describes Michael Jordan’s perseverance at basketball, even though the older kids told him he was too little to play with them. Davis said, "This book is important to me because we used to have the Carrboro school fair with hayrides and a tractor that pulled us. My teacher had a connection to the UNC basketball team, so all of the UNC basketball players, including Michael Jordan, came and we were the only class that saw them."

Sen. Foushee at CES Another guest reader was NC Senator, Valerie Foushee, whose husband, Stan, attended CES. She read “Mae Among the Stars,” to Andres Reinosa’s second grade students, a book about Mae Jemison, the first black woman astronaut. Foushee prioritizes time every year to participate in CHCCS Read-Ins, and when there is time for questions after she reads, students often ask about her political career. At CES, one child asked simply, “Do you like doing what you do?” Foushee assured them she does, very much.

Other readers at CES included Superintendent Dr. Pam Baldwin, ABC Meteorologist Brittany Bell and Executive Director of Equity and Inclusion, Lee Willams. Each reader was greeted by a student ambassador who escorted the guests to classrooms.

CES Principal, Jennifer Halsey, said, “The energy in the building was electric for our African American Read-In. The readers were so excited to be here to read to the students and the students were so excited to have special guests here to read to them.  Many of the readers had personal connections to Carrboro Elementary so it was extra special to have them here. A great time was had by all!”

Northside Elementary School (NES) had everything in place for their Read-In on February 7, but school was cancelled that day due to severe weather, so the next Friday was the charm. Their 24 readers included CHCCS School Board Members, Deon Temne and Rani Dasi, UNC Men’s Basketball Player, Sterling Manning, Police Officer Mike Saposnick, Gloria Thomas of the local chapter of NAACP and various guests from UNC departments and members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Deon at NES Read In NES Media Specialist, Kat Cole, led much of the organizing and archiving of their event. “Our African American Read-In was a day of reading JOY that highlighted the enormous contributions of African American authors and illustrators,” Cole said. “We welcomed guests from across our community for a day filled with a focus on literacy, story and community building. Not only were amazing stories uplifted on this day, but community connections were forged that will last well beyond this one day event. The power of sharing reflective, culturally relevant stories in our teaching spaces cannot be overstated. This day helped us bring awareness to the intentional need to include reflective, #ownvoices stories within our curriculum, our spaces and our lives.”

Mary Scroggs Elementary School (MSES) held its African American Read-In on the morning of February 26. Principal Crystal Epps has taken the lead as organizer in recent years, and the range of readers was diverse, from Dr. Baldwin to current School Board Member Joal Broun and former Member Annetta Streater and Captain Nate Fearrington from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Shaws read at MSES MSES Fourth Grade Teacher, Eugenia Floyd, said, “During the African American Read-In, my students had the opportunity to not only read a story about a famous North Carolinian, but they also got to hear the story from an unfamiliar voice. Having this moment was truly impactful, not because the reader was my mother but because students had a chance to engage in a text with a visitor to their classroom. This powerful moment allowed students to learn they can gain knowledge from anyone and our community is filled with teachers.” 

In 1990, the Black Caucus on the National Council of Teachers of English established the National African American Read-In to anchor literacy exploration and celebration as a key part of Black History Month.