WASHINGTON - Meet Lilly Ann Granderson, a woman born into slavery who secretly teaches hundreds of other enslaved people to read. Or Julián, a young boy who dresses himself as a mermaid, using his Abuela’s curtain and potted fern. Both individuals are found in educator-recommended children’s books that reflect the diversity of today’s students and readers and are among the 36 books featured in this year’s Read Across America program.
“NEA believes diverse literature enables students to see themselves as the heroes of the story, while also showing them that all kinds of people can be the heroes too,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “It is important that we emphasize books that are telling children of color that they belong in the world and the world belongs to them.”
An estimated 45 million educators, parents and students across the U.S. will participate in Read Across America events this year, which is the 22nd year of NEA’s Read Across America. Since 1997, when a NEA reading task force suggested a day of reading to emphasize the fun and adventure of reading, NEA’s has called on every community to enjoy the benefits of reading.
Read Across America Day is celebrated on March 2nd, the birthday of author Ted Geisel, a/k/a Dr. Seuss. Since Read Across America Day falls on a Saturday this year, students and educators nationwide will celebrate on Friday, March 1.
To assist its State Affiliates with their statewide and local events and activities, NEA awarded $100,000 in “Read Across America State Event Grants” to 13 of its state affiliates, ranging in amounts from $5,000 to $20,000. The grants are designed to enhance Read Across America events and activities based on the theme of “Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers” with an emphasis on diverse books.
This year, NEA also launched an expanded digital resources calendar, making it easy for educators and other children’s literature lovers to find educator-recommended books that “Celebrate a Nation of Diverse Readers.” The digital calendar provides expanded content, such as classroom activities, videos, resources, and ideas based on the 36 books recommended for the 2018-19 school year.
On February 28, Eskelsen García will participate in the fourth annual Jazz and Friends National Day of School and Community Readings event at an elementary school in Arlington, Va. The event, sponsored by NEA and the Welcoming Schools Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, will support our nation’s transgender and non-binary students. Eskelsen García will read to students from one of the diverse books highlighted in NEA’s Read Across America calendar.
Lawmakers also lend their bipartisan support to NEA’s literacy campaign and its reading cause. On Capitol Hill, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) and Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Susan Davis (D-CA) supported a resolution proclaiming March 1st Read Across America Day.”
“From the beginning, Read Across America has been an incredible vehicle for focusing attention on literacy. Good reading skills are the cornerstone to success,” said Eskelsen García. “Developing these skills puts students on the pathway to a lifetime of learning and adventure, and providing a diverse array of book titles goes a long way toward cultivating students’ interests. When students have an array of books from which to choose, they are more likely to enjoy the experience and keep at it.”
- Celeste Busser
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