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#RethinkAmerican: Part three in the Great Stories Club series, by Lisa Krok

Back in October and December, I posted the first two parts of this series. These can be found in the links below:

Part one: Racial Healing Circles   Part two: #RethinkLabels

These were developed in conjunction with ALA’s Great Stories Club grant and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio (DCNEO), who funded my project with a matching grant. Together with DCNEO, we provided programming that correlates to the themes of our Great Stories Club books. All book clubs and programs are held at the Harvey Hub. This is a collaborative effort between Morley Library and Harvey High School that is new this past school year. Mondays through Thursdays, the high school and the library each provide a staff member after dismissal time in the school library media center for about three hours. This provides opportunities for programming, book clubs, crafts, homework help, and more.

We meet first to discuss the designated books, and then follow up a week later with DCNEO  that corresponds to the themes of the books. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was selected from the choices Great Stories Club provided, due to its themes of immigrants and deportation. There is a large immigrant population at the school we work with, so this is an important and relatable topic for the teens. When we met to examine the book together, I showed the group photos of Nicola Yoon and her husband, author David Yoon. They immediately noticed that Nicola is a Black woman, and David is a Korean-American man, just like Natasha and Daniel, the main characters in the book. This fascinated the crowd, and seemed to make the book more authentic to them, since it was inspired by the author’s real life.

The following week, we met again to dig deeper into the themes of the book with DCNEO for the #RethinkAmerican program. We began with an icebreaker called Cross the Line. This involved Simone Hutchings, our DCNEO leader, stating “Stand up if you…” and a situation. The cases states were things like:

-Stand up if you were born in the United States

-Stand up if you were born in another country

-Stand up if you are proud to be an American

-Stand up if you have ever told a joke that could be considered racist or offensive

-Stand up if you speak more than one language

…and many more. This sparked interesting conversations afterwards.

*Everyone was given the right to privacy if they did not feel comfortable disclosing a particular situation.

Next, giant pads of paper were hung in three areas of the room. Students were instructed to think about what being an American means for different groups: the media, their families, and themselves. The group broke up and moved around the room to write their ideas on each sheet. The photos below show their varied responses.

We debriefed afterwards to point out similarities/differences amongst the three pages. Next, we translated those ideas to what we see as American values and our own personal values. Each student was given the sheet below, and volunteers shared their thoughts.

We concluded with a brief video and discourse. Similar to the #RethinkLabels video from part two in our series, DCNEO has created a #RethinkAmerican video, also. View it here: #RethinkAmerican video  (three minutes).

Many thanks to the American Library Association’s Great Stories Club and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio!

-Lisa Krok Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians, forthcoming from ABC-CLIO in March 2020. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She was appointed to the 2019-2020 YALSA Presidential Advisory Task Force, served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team, and is on the BFYA committe. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

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