15th UNI African American Read-In Goes Virtual

2020 African American Read-InFor the 15th year, University of Northern Iowa plans to celebrate the literary works of African American authors and illustrators during Black History Month as part of the National African American Read-In, which engages more than one million readers annually. 

This year, however, will be different, with the UNI African American Read-In on February 11 connecting remotely with more than 900 first graders in the Waterloo and Hudson schools to ensure a safe event during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This has been a challenge, but we were committed to ensuring we don’t miss this opportunity to continue to engage with young students in our community,” says Gloria Kirkland-Holmes, professor emeritus, UNI College of Education, and Read-In coordinator. 

UNI information technology staff are working with UNI faculty, staff and student volunteers and participating teachers to connect a slate of speakers via Zoom with classrooms and students. A series of readings and activities are planned from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Nationally and locally recognized authors and celebrity readers lead the day’s activities. They include:

  • Celebrated children’ book authors Ty Allan Jackson, who headlined the 2020 event, and Crystal Swain-Bates
  • Rev. Abraham L. Funchness Jr., local author of “Rise!”
  • Ryan Joiner, a UNI alum and Iowa teacher
  • Celebrity readers Gabby Goodwin, a 13-year-old entrepreneur and CEO of Confidence, and Amber Collins, proprietor of Soul Book Nook, a new bookstore in Waterloo featuring African American authors. 

All students will receive a copy of Swain-Bates’ book, “Naturally Me” and an activity packet developed by the UNI Curriculum and Instruction faculty. 

The UNI College of Education sponsors the event along with support from other campus units, the Waterloo and Hudson school districts and the Cedar Valley Readers Coalition. 

The National African American Read-In is sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and endorsed by the international Reading Association. UNI’s read-in is held annually in conjunction with the African American Children and Families Conference, also a virtual event this year on February 12.