Our entire school community, staff and students, will have the opportunity to read All American Boys and participate in guided discussions and activities.
School Library Journal aptly captures one of our guiding ideas behind offering the book to the whole community: “Teachers and librarians are often in a unique position within the community to develop long-term, supportive relationships with students and to create spaces in which they might find support, understanding, learning, and growth” (“Therapy by the Book”).
Participants will be able to keep their books to not only engage in our month-long activities, but also to remind each other of the benefits of engaging with literature and the community, and to foster further learning and discussion.
You might recognize this type of programming from other educational institutions and communities. Here are just a few groups that have done things like this: Dane County/UW-Madison Go Big Read: Evicted and Just Mercy Edgewood College Common Reading: The New Jim Crow One School, One Read Community Read-a-thons One Maryland One Book (the whole state read All American Boys!)
Students will not be required to read the book for any class or for a grade. Moreover, no specific grade level will be singled out as the students reading the book.
Why an all-school read with this book?
All American Boys prompts readers to engage with relevant issues, from police brutality to civic engagement. With each topic, the book prompts readers to feel connection, but also to feel frustration--acknowledging relevant issues means we acknowledge our society’s imperfections and struggles.
The book refuses to offer easy answers, and at many points, it brings out frustration and even anger. These emotions foster discussion. We are inviting readers to feel frustrated and angry for a number of reasons so that we are collectively incited to develop ways to communicate and come to an understanding of how we are ALL a part of a healthy community.
Again, School Library Journal deftly notes: “Reading a book with others creates a collective experience, a communal reference point….Encouraging students to identify with one another, find common ground, respect each other’s differences, and build friendships is all part of strengthening the support networks that enable them to be resilient” (“Therapy by the Book”).
Through this fictional story, readers can question actions taken by characters, offer perspectives that aren’t presented, develop a language to articulate our frustrations, and even develop ways to strengthen our own community.