Virtually Celebrating International Literacy

By Amanda Moses

September 8th marked the 54th anniversary of International Literacy Day, which was founded in 1966 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to remind society of the importance of being able to read. At Spring Creek Towers’, this event is usually ushered in with the first days of school when the Brooklyn Reading Council sets up tables covered in hundreds of books for all to take home, free of charge. 

This year, the start of school has been pushed back, many opting for remote learning, and events all around New York City have been canceled due to the pandemic. UNESCO declared the 2020 International Literacy Day’s theme to be, “Literacy, teaching, and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.”  In light of the pandemic, remote learning, and the Black Lives Matter movement, many educators are stressing the importance of literature, especially authors who share the experience of Black, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Hindu, and so many other diverse cultures.

For those who want to celebrate  International Literacy, but cannot visit the public library, you can download the application “E Library,” allowing you access (with your library card) to borrow E-books and audio books for free. The Public Libraries also offer a plethora of resources for online learning.  At Spring Creek Towers, families can register for technical support, lessons, and other information with SITEC’s Virtual Lab (see the Spring Creek Sun’s tab SITEC for more information).

The Spring Creek Sun has compiled a list of books for readers to enjoy for International Literacy Day, honoring Black History and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15).

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn: The true history of the United States and how it came to be the country it is today is often a controversial topic. High school students and young adults may find this book enlightening as they discover the horrific past of how Native Americans were massacred and extorted by Christopher Columbus. Political Scientist and Historian Howard Zinn delves into every facet of American history that is often glorified and made vague.

Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought edited by Beverly Guy-Sheftall: This anthology is perfect for adults who want to learn more about black feminist writings from the early 1800s to the present. Complete with works from over 60 African American authors, readers will be swept away by the poetic and powerful prose of these women who fought to have their voices heard.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o: A children’s picture book following protagonist, Sulwe’s struggles with her identity, wishing for her dark skin to be lighter.  Nyong’o highlights a historical issue that many children experience—shame for their beautiful skin. Nyong’o, an Academy-Award winning actress, uses this tale to focus on colorism and teaches children that they should love themselves no matter what their skin color.  

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This young adult book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly after the author learned about the shooting of Oscar Grant. Her book began as a short story for her college creative writing class, and then was expanded into a novel. The story follows a high school student who is caught in between two worlds, the poor neighborhood where she lives and her wealthy suburban school. The author imbued into her protagonist, Starr Carter, an uneasy feeling she personally felt, which was to not appear “too black.”  Carter’s world changes when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her best friend during a traffic stop by an officer. He was unarmed.  

Dominicana: A Novel by Angie Cruz: This story showcases the experience of a Hispanic immigrant who tries to find a better life in America. The protagonist, 15-year-old Anna Cancion grew up in the Dominican Republic’s rural countryside. A man, twice her age proposed to her and promised to whisk her away to New York City for a better life. With pressure from her family who also wish to flee the Dominican Republic, they used Anna to be their ticket to a brighter future. She moved to Washington Heights, where she was lonely and miserable. When her husband leaves to protect his family’s assets in the Dominican Republic, Anna is free to take English lessons and choose how she wants to live her life.  When her husband returns, she must decide between following her heart or her duty to her family.

Drown by Junot Diaz: A semi-autobiographical short story based on Diaz’s experience as a Dominican immigrant trying to achieve the American dream. The story follows, Yunior, as he shares his family’s voyage from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to New Jersey.