When books inspire me, I want my students to have the chance to experience them as well. Such was the case with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. I read the book the week it came out, and I was blown away. This book was one I needed to share with my students, my co-workers, my school, my family, and basically anyone I came in contact with! I immediately created a DonorsChoose project, and soon after received 35 copies for my classroom. I had book talked All American Boys back in October, but I did it again once I received more copies of it. I read portions aloud to my classes. I knew in my heart that this book was written so teenagers like my students could start talking about the sensitive issues in it: police brutality, racism, being a bystander, stereotypes, and SO much more.
Now what? My students were reading All American Boys. Many of them were reading it. I wanted to give my students more though, so I contacted the authors, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely through social media. Brendan put me in touch with his publisher, and I submitted a request. I knew my school couldn’t afford to bring these amazing authors to my school, but I knew Skype could be an option. I eagerly awaited a response, hoping I could share some positive news with my students. Uh oh. A set back. I would need to raise $450, and quickly, to give my students an opportunity to talk to these writers. I started asking around, and a co-worker mentioned our school’s education foundation. I spend a night writing up a description of why my students deserved this opportunity, and I hoped the foundation would see that too. Thankfully they did.
A few days later, I happily announced to my classes that the Skype would take place in a few weeks. More students began reading the book in preparation for it. Others were even starting to write their research papers about police brutality and other topics that showed up in the book. A few students suggested that we make shirts for the Skype! (They got the idea from the book itself.) Others even told some of their other teachers about the book, who then read it as well.
As the day of the Skype approached, I helped my students prepare. Since they had never participated in an author Skype before, or even talked to an author, I gave them ideas for how to come up with questions to ask. They were nervous. They didn’t want to come up with a “bad question,” but I assured them there was no such thing.
Today was a whirlwind of a day, but all the preparation was worth it. The Skype lasted a little over one hour, and even at the end students were still trying to ask more questions. Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely were such a joy to talk to, and my students asked them some wonderful questions. It was obvious they enjoyed the questions as much as my students enjoyed asking them. Some students mentioned that All American Boys inspired them to change, and one girl even called Jason and Brendan her heroes. I couldn’t have been more proud. I only wish I got more pictures!
NOTE: None of this would have been possible without the financial support of the Cleveland Hill Education Foundation. Thank you for letting our students be a part of this wonderful experience!