Penn State Harrisburg will hold a Read-In this month in celebration of black history and black literature as part of the school’s commitment to diversity and equality. The Office of Student Life at Penn State will sponsor this event today to take place in the Oliver LaGrone Cultural Arts Center, Olmsted Building, on the campus.
The inspiration for the read-in came from the National African-American Read-In which first began in 1989 to spotlight black authors and their contributions and to promote literacy. Schools, churches, libraries, teachers, and community leaders are all encouraged to consider participating in or hosting a read-in event.
With illiteracy at epidemic levels within our society alone, it is important to hold events such as this to shed light on great literature. An event such as this also brings light to the problem. In the United States alone, 44 million adults have trouble reading a simple children’s story to their kids. Forty-five million are considered “functionally illiterate” and are not able to read above a 5th-grade level
Illiteracy has long been thought to be connected to low income and crime. Consider this, according to the Literacy Project Foundation, three out of five people in prison are unable to read; 85 percent of juvenile offenders are unable to read; and approximately 50 percent — that is half of all American citizens — read too poorly to understand a prescription drug label.
Events like a read-in can offer hope to every community. Being read to at an event by a good reader can enhance and inspire an appetite for more reading. Adults who have a hard time reading may be motivated to learn through free literacy programs that aim to teach them the skills needed. Children who are read to gain a love of reading as well as an appreciation for the art of storytelling.
Hosting a read-in can help bring a community together to enjoy one of the most leisurely and enjoyable pastimes ever, with a focus on black authors and their outstanding contributions to literature. The National Council of Teachers of English offers free information and a toolkit to get started with hosting a read-in for Black History Month.
What are some of the ways you celebrate Black History Month? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter: @lcarterwriter.