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Black Boy Joy!

I wrapped up the teaching portion of our mini lesson and began linking our community work to what I wanted readers to try independently.

“Okay, you have two important decisions to make as you go off today! First, you’ll choose a NEW short story to experience. As I lay out the stacks, I want to spotlight a new text I’m adding to our menu– it comes from this short story anthology that I just started reading. . .Black Boy Joy!”

I held up the book, and one reader in our circle got particularly excited. He began bouncing and waving his hand. I continued with my directions, outlining the second important decision to be made, and his nonverbal excitement shifted to signing “me too!”

Taking a moment to honor his enthusiasm and identity was important. “Aiden, do you have a personal connection you’d like to share?”

“I’ve read this book!” he exclaimed. “I have it at home and just keep reading it!”

I replied, “Oh, I’m so glad you read this! I’ve only read a few of the stories so far, but it seems like an AWESOME book.”

As many readers reached for First Day Fly by Jason Reynolds, I made my way over to Aiden’s desk.

“So. . .” I said, “Tell me more. What do you love about this book?”

“I’m not sure,” Aiden replied. “The stories are so good, and I can’t stop reading it.”

“It’s so exciting when we find a book that we feel connected to! Let me show you the story I read last night.”

I opened up to The Legendary Lawrence Cobbler by Julian Winters and shared that I was thinking it would be a great one to add to our short story menu soon. Aiden expressed that he also loved that one, pointing at the text and nodding at a rapid rate.

He grinned from ear to ear. His eyes glimmered with joy. His excitement that day was palpable.

Today, this reader wants to recommend this beautiful short story anthology. He wants to connect it to some truthful history. He wants to share his voice with us:

People should read Black Boy Joy. . .It makes me feel good about being Black. It shows me a lot of things we can do.

Some people tried to change the world, but back then segregation took Black people’s lives away, their homes, their freedom. But when Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up, he changed everything. He gave us rights. He gave us power. Now look at us now. We fellow people can do anything, and so can you!

Everyone is special in some way. We all have something that someone else can’t do. Some characters in the book Black Boy Joy tried to do something that someone else did, but they learned that everyone has something different inside them. This book is made for everyone to show what WE can do.”

Today, Aiden reminds us– Representation matters. Teaching the truth matters. Children’s voices matter.

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