Posted on Monday, May 20, 2013
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Eighteen Westminster College early childhood education/special education majors participated in February in the 24th National African- American Read-In at Farrell Elementary School.
The students are enrolled in a literacy methods class taught by Dr. Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster professor of education.
The read-in is sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English to help students value diverse children's authors. Klassen Endrizzi selected books by African-American authors that the Westminster pre-service teachers shared with students in kindergarten and grades one-four. Each classroom received a copy of the book that was read, donated through funding from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning and its director, Dr. Patrick Krantz.
"A central goal of this Read-In, promoting intercultural understanding through conversations about books, aligns with Westminster's mission statement concerning the need to demonstrate responsible service as world citizens. Each year our Westminster students share poignant anecdotes of their deepening understanding of themselves by exploring diverse cultural perspectives through these vital book discussions," Klassen Endrizzi said.
"This African American Read-In allowed me to take a leap and immerse myself in a community that is so radically different than my own small community. Like the kids from Farrell, I never left my community until I had to go to college, and even then I chose another small-town community that resembled my own," said Westminster student Amanda Fair.
"This opportunity was both nerve racking and exciting. I grew up in a neighborhood not far from Farrell, but very ethnically different. In my elementary classrooms, we would have never read a book with such deep content and I was thrilled to get the opportunity to try. My Farrell third-grade students had deep meaningful conversations that really increased my knowledge of these students' lives," Megan Donaldson said.
"Throughout my life, I attended a predominately white private school and never truly had an experience with diversity as a pre-service teacher until attending the African-American Read-In. My initial concern was one of intimidation because of my lack of experience with diverse classrooms and students… Before I began my lesson, I was constantly thinking whether or not my Farrell Kindergarten students would be judging me because of my race. I was afraid that the students would not respect me or care to listen to my thoughts and directions because I was "different" from them. However, I learned that my perception of the children and how they would react to me and the lesson was very wrong," Laura Sutton said.
Sutton continued, "The students welcomed me with open arms and were highly engaged in my lesson. These kindergarten children were open to the idea of differences as a good thing and asked many questions in order to gain more knowledge about the aspects of diversity covered in the book. I now believe that literacy can play a crucial role in developing a student's positive mental climate about themselves and their peers."
What made this year's Read In especially meaningful were the joint efforts of Farrell Elementary principal Japraunika Wright M ‘04 and her mother, Jeannette Hubbard, Westminster's director of diversity services. Additional organizational support came from Valerie Morrison M '06.
Klassen Endrizzi, who serves as Westminster's faculty development officer, joined the faculty in 1993. She earned undergraduate and master's degrees from Fresno Pacific College and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. She is the author of Becoming Teammates: Teachers and Families as Literacy Partners (NCTE, 2008).
Contact Klassen Endrizzi at (724) 946-7189 or email for more information.