African American Read-In Puts Spotlight on Literacy, Black Authors

African American Read-In Puts Spotlight on Literacy, Black Authors

Nearly 2000 first-graders locally and regionally  will connect with the University of Northern Iowa College of Education as part of its 16th African American Read-In, which celebrates the literary works of African American authors and illustrators during Black History Month.

The February 17 event, part of the National African American Read-In that engages more than one million readers annually, is again being offered virtually. With the remote connection, students from a record 15 school districts will join in. In recent years, Waterloo and Hudson districts have participated.

“The pandemic has disrupted the learning of so many children, and we know first grade is a huge stepping stone in learning to read. This year’s read-in takes on added significance as an opportunity to draw children toward reading while also introducing them to the wonderful contributions of leading African American authors and illustrators,” said Gloria Kirkland Holmes, UNI College of Education professor emeritus and coordinator of the annual event.

Classroom teachers will connect via Zoom links to a morning or afternoon program. The morning includes:

  • Live readings by national authors Crystal Swain-Bates, Janelle Jennings-Alexander and Jan Spivey Gilchrist
  • Live puppet show
  • Special appearance by TC and TK, UNI mascots
  • Taped readings and university student-led presentations

Elementary students from Waterloo, Hudson, Oelwein Parkside, St. Patrick’s (Cedar Falls) and Findley Elementary School in Des Moines plan to participate.

In the afternoon, Spivey Gilchrist will share a live reading of her book, "Honey I Love" with students watching and listening from first grade classrooms in Union, Jesup, Independence, Dike-New Hartford, Waverly-Shell Rock, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, Oelwein (Sacred Heart), North Butler, Janesville, Denver, Cedar Falls and Dunkerton schools in the Cedar Valley. 

All students will receive a free copy of either “The Great Migration,” or  “Honey I Love,” both illustrated by Spivey Gilchrist. The books were provided by Green State Credit Union and Veridian Credit Union.

The National African American Read-In is sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and endorsed by the international Reading Association. UNI’s read-in is held annually in conjunction with the African American Children and Families Conference, also a virtual event this year on February 18.

The UNI College of Education sponsors the read-in along with support from other campus units, the Waterloo school district and the Cedar Valley Readers Coalition.


Steve Schmadeke, Public Relations Manager,, 319-273-2761