February 25, 2022

African American Read-In Uses Children’s Literature to Teach Black Culture

PBA News

Associate Librarian Dr. LaKeshia Darden displays “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”, the first Coretta Scott King Award-winning book she read as a child. The book was a focal point of the National African American Read-In held in the Warren Library earlier this month.

Dr. LaKeshia Darden ignited the imagination of her audience as she read excerpts from Coretta Scott King award-winning novel Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, breathing life into the experiences of the Logan family in 1930s rural Mississippi.

The Coretta Scott King Award, in honor of the civil rights activist, author and wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is given to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of children’s books that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The Coretta Scott King seal decorates the cover of these distinguished books.

“When I saw that seal as a young girl,” said Darden, “I knew it was from someone who looked like me.”

Dr. LaKeshia Darden reads from a book at the National African American Read-In Feb. 15 in the Lassiter Rotunda of the Warren Library. The purpose is to read African American works and discuss the Black experience as expressed in them.

On Feb. 15, Darden led Palm Beach Atlantic’s first African American Read-In. “The whole purpose,” said Warren Library Director John Doncevic about the national event, “is to bring the community together to read African American works and discuss the Black experience as expressed in these works.”

The tune of the Black national anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing filled the Lassiter Rotunda, and a display of Coretta Scott King award winners showcased Black art and culture.

Darden also read award-winning books Crown and Undefeated, turning each page to show the colorful illustrations and inviting the audience to view the world through a new lens.

“The goal is a change in thinking,” said Darden. “We are working towards a change of the mind for the better.”

Said Doncevic, “Darden is a national authority on young adult and children’s literature written from the Black experience.”

Darden’s connection with Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry launched her into a career of training educators through Black children’s literature.

Among other roles, Darden served as the Coretta Scott King jury chair and wrote her doctoral dissertation at Fayetteville State University on Diversity Training Through Story: University Professionals Explore Narratives of the Black Experience by Reading Coretta Scott King Book Award Titles.

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