IMG_9908_polarrThis year for Teen Read Week we celebrated and awarded students for “Reading Woke.”  The Read Woke Challenge is a incentive based reading program that rewards students for reading books that:

• Challenge a social norm

• Give voice to the voiceless

• Provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised

• Seek to challenge the status quo

• Have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group

I started the challenge last year but this year I was able to really expand the program thanks to the Teen Read Week grant sponsored by Dollar General and YALSA.  Last year, many students were not able to receive the prizes they earned but this year I made sure all students who completed the challenge received their prizes.  This year’s program was different because I had more community involvement.  In past years, I have worked alone and not really involved others.  When I opened the doors up to the community, it made my program even better.  I have established relationships and connections that have helped me to make a bigger impact.  Because of the Teen Read Grant, I reached out to the manager of Dollar General.  He was very supportive of the program and he was excited to be a part of our event.

dollar general grant trw  Next, I reached out to our School Safety Officer and she attended our Read Woke Panel discussion.  She talked about the duality of being a police officer and being an African-American woman in light of the recent police brutality cases.  The students used this discussion as an opportunity to probe deeper into a novel they had recently read entitled, The Hate You Give.  Listening to the discussion between our students and the School Safety Officer, made me realize the importance of community involvement.  There were questions that they students posed that I could not answer.  The students loved it because it made it relevant for them.  My advice to anyone is to involve your community as much as possible.  It is an amazing opportunity for the students and the community members.  Also, it is important to be inclusive.  Sometimes we forget about our students with disabilities.  This year we incorporated a story hour for our Special Education classes.  I shared picture books about “woke” issues and the students loved riding the Fitdesk exercise bikes which we purchased using funding from the grant.  It was a great opportunity for all of us.  In addition, I worked with the Video Broadcasting class to create a commercial about Teen Read Week.  The students became so involved that they signed up for the challenge too.  They are currently in process of earning their prizes!  Click here to see the video.

Ways to involve the community:

  1.  Write a press release for the community newspaper.
  2. Invite local business leaders to your events.
  3. Share information about your events on social media. Tag a local business or community leader.Next year, I plan to increase my community involvement even more
  4. Look in the school for community members.  Many times there are people in your school who are from the community.  They are waiting to help and be involved.
  5. Provide pictures, thank you letters and certificates to community members who support your program.  People love to receive pictures and thank you cards.

There is an old African proverb that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  This is true.  We need our community to share in the responsible so that we can all reap the positive results.

Cicely Lewis is the Media Specialist at Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, Georgia.

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