|High school students at the book fair|
The book fair at our Language Arts and Leadership Conference was a reminder about the enjoyment black boys might experience when given the opportunity to select among large numbers of books. Our book fair made it possible for the guys to peruse and select at least three free books. The 35 high school guys buzzed with excitement as they looked over the books and made their selections.
These days, digital devices and the web pervade the lives of black boys, like almost everyone else. In school, black boys have relatively little control over the books they are assigned, notwithstanding books they might check out at the library. Maybe that explains the excitement concerning our book fair. They had the opportunity to choose.
We had a wide range of selections too. Poetry. Fiction. Non-fiction. Comic books. Weight training books. Literature anthologies. History.
In recent years, I've spent some time thinking about areas of inquiry known as "print culture studies" as well as book history where scholars investigate and explicate the ways that a range of people (writers, reviewers, editors, publishers, book sellers, readers, etc.) contributed to the production, transmission, and consumption of printed materials. Scholars in the fields have offered many useful ideas.
What I realized during the book fair last week, though, was that not enough has been said about black boys and print culture or black boys and book history. I was witnessing something special as I watched those young guys express so much excitement about making selections from tables filled with books. And I suppose it's worth noting that my own fond memories of wondering around used bookstores was what led me to organize this event in the first place.
Language Arts and Leadership Conference