Yankee Ridge's African-American Read-In never gets old for storytellers or audience

Yankee Ridge's African-American Read-In never gets old for storytellers or audience

URBANA — It's moments like the one Terrence Stuber experienced Monday that have made Yankee Ridge Elementary's annual African-American Read-In a mark-the-calendar occasion for him for more than a decade-and-a-half.

The book he read to fifth-graders — "Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom" — sparked a classroom conversation afterward about giving back, which Stuber was moved by.

"Our discussion was about what they can do to help those in their life that are hurting," Stuber said.

The stories "give young people a chance to think, 'What can I do?'"

Monday's event never gets old for the African-American men who met in the Urbana school's library to pick up the books they would spend 30 minutes reading to kids.

Stuber, the coordinator of audiovisual services at the UI's College of Veterinary Medicine, keeps coming back as a way to honor the late longtime librarian, Dorothy Vickers-Shelley, who brought the event to Yankee Ridge.

"It shows that giving spirit Dorothy Vickers-Shelley had," Stuber said. "She gave her life and was always imparting her wisdom."

In 1990, the black caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English declared the first Monday of February read-in day as a way to make literacy part of the focus of Black History Month.

The day begins with 10-year veteran librarian Melinda Lundberg stacking up all the books she has that feature African-American writers and characters. The men choose a book — some the same one each year — and head to their classrooms.

"All of the books are very inspiring and are about building the right character," Stuber said.

Urbana Fire Marshal Phil Edwards' selection Monday was one of his favorite children's books, "Kevin and His Dad." After a section about the characters recycling, he paused to say why that was important.

"We have to keep the Earth green," Edwards said, adding, "I'm just learning about that myself."

As the nine readers regathered in the library after finishing in their classrooms, Lundberg said it was possible that next year, more would have to be invited to cover all the classes. She doesn't figure that will be a problem, given how easy it has become to coordinate the event.

"I extend the invitation every year, and every year they respond, 'Absolutely,'" Lundberg said.

This year's group also included Orlando Thomas, Tracy Parsons, Lorenzo Kindle, Terry Napper, Michael Jefferies, Jonathan Westfield and the namesake of another Urbana elementary school, Preston Williams Jr.

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