Literature and arts in spotlight for 18th UNI African American Read-In

Literature and arts in spotlight for 18th UNI African American Read-In

18th UNI African American Read-In Thursday, February 15

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – More than 3,000 first-graders from 64 schools in public and private school districts across Iowa will join the 18th African American Read-In hosted by University of Northern Iowa College of Education as a free, virtual event on Feb. 15. 

This year’s event, which focuses on African American authors, illustrators, literature and the arts, includes a read-along and draw-along with guest presenters during a one-hour morning or afternoon time slot. They include: 

  • Michelle H. Martin, PhD, Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor in Children and Youth Services In the Information School at the University of Washington. She is also a co-founder of the nonprofit Camp Read-a-Rama which uses children’s books as the springboard for year-round and summer camp literacy immersion programming. Martin will read “Where’s Rodney?,” written by Carmen Bogan and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. All students registered by Jan. 22 are receiving a copy thanks to donations from John Deere and Community Bank and Trust.  
  • R. Gregory Christie, an award-winning children’s book illustrator and lecturer known for his inspiring art and educational programs on art, diversity and literature, will lead a draw-along with students. His accomplishments include art featured on New York City’s subway cars and recognition as a past Caldecott Honor and NAACP Image Award winner.  

Michelle H. Martin

R. Gregory Christie

Leigh Zeitz, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, will provide a live, brief magic show in between the two activities. 

Registration includes first graders from a mix of 147 mostly public, but also private, school classrooms in 64 schools and 29 counties from across the state, including the additions of Linn, Cerro Gordo, Jackson, Jones and Chickasaw.

Among the districts and communities participating are Ames, Anita, Bellevue, Burlington, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Danville, Davenport, Denver, Des Moines, Dike-New Hartford, Dubuque, Dunkerton, Fort Dodge, Independence, Iowa City, Janesville, Jesup, Johnston, Manchester, Mason City, Monticello, Moville, New Hampton, Oelwein, Osage, Ossian, Ottumwa, Peosta, Radcliffe, Ruby-Van Meter, Sioux City, Sloan, Spencer, Tabor, Tama, Union-La Porte City and Waverly. 

A new addition to this year’s event is a Facebook group for the first grade teachers and interested faculty and UNI students which allows members to discuss books, learn more about African American authors and illustrators, learn from lesson plans on the topics and showcase student work. 

The read-in was first organized by Gloria Kirkland Holmes, PhD, a UNI emerita early education professor, who passed away in December 2022. Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar, associate professor of literacy education, has stepped in to coordinate this year’s activity. Last year was the first year the read-in extended fully across the state in which about 2,000 students participated. 

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.  Questions regarding the event can be directed to Amy Curley,