African American Read-In

I organized read-ins as part of the national African American Read-In chain starting in 2007 at College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota. I continued hosting annual read-ins at Newberry College in 2008 and 2009, and then at Augusta State University from 2010 to 2012. The Newberry African American Read-In is still going strong, and as of 2016, ASU (now Augusta University) has reinstated its Read-In as well. This page includes general information about some of our past events; for information on the current Read-In, please see the Facebook page here.

What is the African American Read-In?

The first African American Read-In was sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English in 1990. The following year, the NCTE as a whole joined in sponsorship. Since its beginning, over a million readers across the U.S., the West Indies, and Africa have participated in the project, all with the goal of celebrating African American literary culture as a part of Black History Month.

Different groups participate in different ways. Some have informal reading groups consisting of friends and family sharing books, and others host author readings for large audiences. Many groups choose one text that all participants read and discuss in common, while other groups have participants choose a text to read on their own.

Our Read-In will reserve ten-minute time slots for individual readers to share a short piece of writing by an African American author with an audience. Our goal is to give readers a chance to introduce others in the community to their favorite writers and give listeners a chance to hear some of the diverse voices of African American literary traditions.

How can I participate?

You can read, or you can listen! Listeners are welcome and encouraged to stop in during any part of the afternoon. Make yourself comfortable, settle in with a cup of coffee, and take in some of the poems, short stories, memoirs, novels, and other pieces that your friends and neighbors have to share. We’ll have a list of works and additional information available if you want to learn more about African American literature.

If you’d like to read aloud for the audience, we encourage you to select a piece that you want to share and sign up for a time slot. Time slots are ten minutes, so you won’t have to read aloud for long, but if you have a longer piece you’d like to share, you can sign up for consecutive slots (or perhaps join with another reader). Ten minutes will allow enough time for several short poems, one or two long poems, or a two- to three-page selection from a novel or other book.

If you would like to read aloud but don’t want to bring a piece with you, we will have books and photocopies available onsite that you can choose from. Readers who haven’t signed up in advance will be welcome to read, too!

What will be expected of me?

If you sign up to read, we’ll expect you to show up at your selected time and read your piece aloud. You’ll probably tell us a little bit about your piece and the author, as you desire. When you arrive, someone will be there to check in readers; let that person know that you’re there and ready to read at least ten minutes before your selected time.

The Guidelines for Students is intended to help readers prepare. Use as much or as little of the advice as you wish.

You don’t have to stay for the whole event, but you are certainly welcome to do so.


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