Hop­ing a book can bind the city

Ini­tia­tive selects ‘Dear Martin’ as read­ing se­lec­tion for chil­dren and adults

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Talia Rich­man

In the city that reads, thou­sands of stu­dents will pore over the same story as part of a new ini­tia­tive to pro­mote lit­er­acy.

One Book Bal­ti­more aims to con­nect chil­dren, their fam­i­lies and their sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties by en­cour­ag­ing them all to read the same book.

This year’s se­lec­tion is “Dear Martin,” a novel by Nic Stone that fol­lows a young black teenager through his se­nior year of high school. In a se­ries of jour­nal en­tries ad­dressed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., young Justyce McAllister grap­ples with ques­tions about race and iden­tity.

The or­ga­ni­za­tions be­hind One Book Bal­ti­more hope that “by choos­ing a gritty nar­ra­tive that ex­plic­itly deals with peace, anti-vi­o­lence, and racial equity … in­di­vid­u­als may en­gage in mean­ing­ful open di­a­logue about their ex­pe­ri­ences and the chal­lenges fac­ing our com­mu­ni­ties, and that they may ul­ti­mately see a new path for them­selves,” ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease an­nounc­ing the city-wide ini­tia­tive.

All Bal­ti­more pub­lic school seventh- and eighth-graders will get free copies of the book, but peo­ple of any age are en­cour­aged to read it.

“City schools de­ter­mined that the themes of peace and anti-vi­o­lence would res­onate with mid­dle school stu­dents and the project would have a pos­i­tive im­pact,” ac­cord­ing to the ini­tia­tive’s web­site. “The text is age-ap­pro­pri­ate for seventh- and eighth-grade stu­dents. One Book Bal­ti­more is a new ini­tia­tive and our hope is to po­ten­tially ex­pand to other grade lev­els in the com­ing years.”

Ex­tra copies of “Dear Martin” will be avail­able to check out at all 22 Enoch Pratt Free Li­brary lo­ca­tions, and all Lit­tle Free Li­brary sites in the city.

The pro­gram is a col­lab­o­ra­tion among the li­brary sys­tem, the city school dis­trict, Bal­ti­more Cease­fire 365, T. Rowe Price Foun­da­tion and a num­ber of other groups.

The idea emerged from con­ver­sa­tions among com­mu­nity lead­ers af­ter the 2015 un­rest in the city, touched off by the death of 25-year-old Fred­die Gray, who suf­fered fa­tal in­juries while in po­lice cus­tody.

“We saw that other cities had used fam­ily lit­er­acy ef­forts to bring com­mu­ni­ties to­gether and fos­ter mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion,” John Brothers, pres­i­dent of the T. Rowe Price Foun­da­tion, said in a state­ment.

One Book Bal­ti­more will launch at the Bal­ti­more Book Fes­ti­val on Sun­day in the In­ner Har­bor. Stone will at­tend the event sched­uled for 2 p.m. at the Enoch Pratt Free Li­brary Chil­dren’s Tent.

“To know that chil­dren — and adults — across the city of Bal­ti­more will be read­ing and en­gag­ing with ‘Dear Martin’ is an honor be­yond mea­sure,” she said in a state­ment. “It is my deep­est hope that slip­ping into Justyce’s shoes will open eyes and minds in a way that will move the world we in­habit a bit closer to that of Dr. King’s Dream.”

Dis­cus­sions and pro­gram­ming re­lated to the book’s themes will be held at Pratt Li­brary lo­ca­tions across the city this fall.

Stone is sched­ule to re­turn to Bal­ti­more to talk with stu­dents about the book Dec. 12. More de­tails on One Book Bal­ti­more pro­gram­ming are posted at prat­tli­brary.org/one­book.

BAR­BARA HAD­DOCK TAY­LOR/BAL­TI­MORE SUN PHO­TOS

Sgt. Matthew San­tora of the United States Ma­rine Corps looks at the sleeve length on a jacket he's try­ing on Satur­day at the March­ing Our Vet­er­ans Back To Work fair. The event of­fers do­nated suits, dresses, shoes and other cloth­ing items to vet­er­ans.

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