BoB Team Attends the Annual African American Read-In
By Avery Castellani
On February 13th, members of the BoB team and I had the pleasure of attending the annual African American Read-In at historic Sumner Hall in downtown Chestertown. The event is co-sponsored by our very own WAC Department of Education and described as “an intergenerational community celebration of African American authors.”
As part of the festivities, attendees of all ages are encouraged to bring their own books written by African American authors and share them with the group. To make this possible, the evening is usually split up into two separate parts; a "family-friendly" stories for all segment where children can share, and a "young adult" and up segment for more mature topics and readers. Because of our unique turn out this year, however, these segments were combined into one long reading. If you didn't have a book of your own to share, there was no fear! Sumner Hall and the Kent County Public Library had the entire space decked out in books of all kinds for the guests to engage with.
Throughout the evening, we got to see readers share a variety of works, such as picture books, poems, songs, and even yearbook sign-offs in a variety of different ways. Team highlights included readings from Dr. Bunten and her two daughters, Lena and Dimelsa (the latter being joined by Dr. Clarke-De Reza to read "Kamala and Maya's Big Idea" by Meena Harris), and Professor Johnson who dazzled the room with "Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Pictorial Tribute to the Negro National Anthem" by James Johnson and Debbie Egan-Chin.
While sitting and watching them, I couldn't help but make the connection back to our project here at the BoB research lab. Much like Matthew and Robbi's presentation, this event was a valuable opportunity to inspire young readers, writers, and illustrators. The event's interaction with the Chestertown community, historical roots, and the inclusion of more mature literature made this event fruitful for young-adult and adult readers as well, proving that positive and productive literary engagement is important long after one leaves elementary/middle school. The joint celebration of African-American culture and literacy as a whole was a perfect recipe for an engaging and educational evening no matter who you were.