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Village Books ‘read-in’ honors legacy of MLK

Participants in the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Read-In gather in the downstairs Readings Gallery of Village Books.
Participants in the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Read-In gather in the downstairs Readings Gallery of Village Books. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

An annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day “read-in” for children, featuring books about social justice and other topics, is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, in the downstairs Readings Gallery at Village Books, 1200 11th St.

“For at least a decade,” the independent bookseller has held the event in partnership with students from Western Washington University’s Center for Service-Learning, which focuses on social change, said Sam Kaas, events coordinator.

“We’ve always had a really great turnout,” he said. “From 10 a.m. to noon, especially, there’s a steady hum of activity. (Students will) select books and read to kids in groups or individually.”

A reading list hadn’t been finalized earlier this week, but Kaas suspected participants will see several acclaimed works, including “The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights,” by Newbery Honor writer Steve Sheinkin; “Hand In Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America,” by Andrea Davis Pickney; “Love Will See You Through,” by Angela Farris Watkins; and “Underground,” by Shane W. Evans.

It’s all part of an effort to honor the legacy of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the federal holiday that recognizes his achievements. Works will feature age-appropriate information about the civil rights movement, the history of racial minorities, racial tolerance, diversity and community, Kaas said.

Other titles Kaas cited were “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson, which won the 2014 National Book Award, the 2015 Coretta Scott King Award, and was a 2015 Newbery Honor book; and “The Crossover,” the 2015 Newbery winner by Kwame Alexander.

“That is exactly the kind of book we’re thinking of,” he said about “The Crossover,” a story in verse that describes the relationship among twins boys who play basketball and their father, a former pro star. “It is to celebrate what’s cool about all of us.”

Other books that celebrate diversity include 2015 Newbery Honor “El Deafo,” a graphic memoir by Cece Bell, and 2016 Newbery Medal winner “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson, a picture book about a boy and his grandmother riding a bus through big-city neighborhoods.

Readers might also hear classics such as Christopher Paul Curtis’ “The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963,” about a family from Michigan visiting the deep South in the midst of racial turmoil.

“Especially as I’ve grown older, I’ve enjoyed and respected books that approach the dark times, times of struggle, books that tackle (difficult topics) in a realistic but triumphant way,” Kaas said. “That’s important for kids to be exposed to in storytelling.”