Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Coffee: Reading with a Purpose

Here is where my teaching life and my reading life intertwine. This year I have been reading and planning for a class I will be teaching next year. The idea sprang to life over the course of more than a year: I noticed that my students knew next to nothing about the history and literature of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of my students had grandparents who had experience segregation and Jim Crow, yet we rarely talked about these topics in school. So I started thinking about a literature course that would focus on literary works from the Harlem Renaissance on through the Civil Rights Movement.

In the end, the course became something much bigger than I initially imagined. Now I will be co-teaching, with a teacher from our social studies department, who will teach U.S. History, while I teach English--the students will be able to go back and forth between our two classes, and we will be able to put the classes together for some lessons and research projects. The literature class has become broader: I plan to focus on social justice and themes of equality, while still maintaining a strong focus on the Civil Rights Movement.

All year I have been reading widely, trying to find the best books and resources for my students. Here are a few of the texts I've been delving into:

Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe. This nonfiction book is perfect for my high school students.
We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson. The compelling story of how the children of Birmingham became leaders of the Civil Rights Movement is absolutely gripping. I'd love for every student to have a copy of this book.
Selected Poems by Langston Hughes. Essential reading.
Why We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr. Pivotal texts by a leader of the Movement.
Reporting Civil Rights: Part One: American Journalism 1941-1963. I'm just getting started with this volume from the Library of America.
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin. Baldwin was one of the most brilliant writers of his time, and his incisive essays challenge and edify the reader.

This has been one of my obsessions of the last year or so.... These are just a few of the titles I've read or am reading to prepare for my class. Do you have a favorite book, new or classic, fiction or nonfiction, from or about the Civil Rights Movement?


Andi said...

This is one of the things I miss most about classroom teaching. I love the feeling of getting excited and beginning to hunt for the best material to share. It sounds like an AMAZING class!

bibliophiliac said...

@Andi-I am so excited for this class. I just want to immerse myself in the material; this summer is going to be full of reading!