Over 400 schools participate in the Project LIT program to allow students, teachers and community members to obtain relevant and diverse books. Librarian Krissy Ronan recently initiated Marshall’s “chapter,” in the program.
In an attempt to eliminate “book deserts,” or areas where community members are unable to easily acquire printed books, Maplewood High School English teacher Jarred Amato created the Project LIT Book Club in Nashville, TN.
“In high school, you get told to read a lot of things that you maybe wouldn’t have chosen otherwise,” Ronan said. “Having something that is a little low stress but involves reading for pleasure […] is important.”
The Project LIT Book Club has a set of preselected contemporary and young adult books. In their previous meeting, GCM LIT discussed “The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown, “Time Bomb” by Joelle Charbonneau, “Dread Nation” by Justina Ireland, “When I Was the Greatest” by Jason Reynolds and “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika Sánchez.
“[The books] were not necessarily the kind of books that you would read in English class, but [they were still] just fun books,” English teacher Meg Hemmingson said. “Reading can be fun and should be fun, and that’s something that we can forget sometimes as English teachers [and] students.”
Ronan said she plans on holding meetings for GCM LIT once every quarter so participants have enough time to read the books without pressure or too much of a commitment.
“I’ve tried to expose and engage students in conversation about diversity, empathy, learning about each other and seeing yourself in books,” Ronan said. “That’s a really important aspect of reading that doesn’t always get as much time as I wish it could in the classroom. [GCM LIT] was a way for me to feel like I was having an impact on that.”
A goal of the Project LIT Book Club is to empower readers by selecting books that communicate a message of valuing all kinds of people.
“There were books starring LGBT characters, women, people of color, people in different time periods, locations [and] situations,” senior Adrian Lamb said. “I think [Ronan] did a good job in choosing books about different people.”
Lamb said having meetings with both students and adults was not awkward, though it was odd for him to address his counselor, Cara Engel, by her first name.
“In actual discussion I feel like [the attendance of adults and students] didn’t actually make that much of a difference,” Lamb said. “We all read the same books [and] we approached it in the same way.”
Five people, including Ronan, Hemmingson and Lamb, attended the first meeting of GCM LIT. Ronan said she hopes to gain popularity through word-of-mouth.
“I plan on attending more meetings and telling my friends […] about [GCM LIT] in hopes that they’ll show up,” Lamb said. “We’ve finally picked the books that we will be discussing next time.”
Participants can read “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo or “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi for the next meeting on April 8.
“It’s important for both sides to understand that we’re all learning […] and that we all can find connections,” Ronan said. “[GCM LIT] is an interesting way to get to know each other. It creates a way to build a different connection which I think helps both sides feel connected to our school.”