Kourtney Berry wanted to share inspirational stories. Gig Brown loves jazz and came to share it with students who ended up way more interested in his Tampa Police Department uniform. Alicia McDowell use her singing voice to bring a book about famous dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey to life.
All three were among dozens of volunteers who visited various Hillsborough County schools as part of African-American Read-In events held to coincide with Black History Month.
When Berry visited Potter Elementary, she read biographies of Michelle Obama, Muhammad Ali and Broadway singer Florence Mills.
“I want to serve as inspiration and give them things to look forward to,” said Berry, who works for Suncoast Credit Union but actually attended Potter when she was in pre-kindergarten. “My goal here is to give them some inspirational stories and to hope they will take and what they learn about and read about and use it in their lives."
Brown delivered a story about music icon Louis Armstrong to his audience, but most of their discussion was about the 22 pounds of gear he wears each day. It was good, he said, “because they can see I’m just a regular guy.”
Other speakers at Potter included students from the Franklin Girls Preparatory Academy (a Hillsborough County magnet middle school), area pastors, fraternity members from the University of South Florida and many more.
Multiple schools staged similar events, including B.C. Graham Elementary, which held its first such event. The program, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English, encourages educators to make literacy a significant component of Black History Month.
The day at Graham Elementary began with a continental breakfast and time for readers to select books recommended by the reading coach. Members of the community then joined to read books written by African-American authors to every single class at the school.
Participants, mainly members of Allen Temple AME Church in Ybor City, also shared aspects of their professional lives with students. Attendees included musicians, religious leaders, former educators, librarians, college professors, lawyers, social services professionals and small business owners.
To celebrate the day, teachers wore African and Afro-Caribbean attire. Some readers brought special gifts for their classes to include books for students and teachers. As a result of the event, one reader has adopted her class and pledged long-term engagement with them and our school. Another reader has become a pen pal of our third grade class, corresponding with them through cards and letters.
“I truly enjoyed the experience and opportunity to work with students,” said volunteer reader Sybil Goings.
“I treasured every moment of this enjoyable time,” added Dr. Cora Dunkley.
At Rampello K-8 in downtown, readers included students from middle school grades, an AVID tutor, the school resource officer and more. All read books by African-American authors to promote diversity in children's literature, foster a love of reading and shine a light on African-American authors, said lead teacher Amy Rumore Miller.
Check the photo album below for photos from events at B.C. Graham Elementary, Lomax Elementary, Potter Elementary and Rampello K-8.
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