Although our city’s slogan is no longer “The City That Reads,” a new literacy program is using one powerful story to bring local communities together.
One Book Baltimore—a collaboration between Baltimore City Public Schools, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore Ceasefire, and several other organizations—connects area students through a book club-style reading of author Nic Stone’s best-selling novel, Dear Martin. Stone kicked off the initiative during the Baltimore Book Festival in September with a discussion about her debut book, which follows the story of an Ivy League-bound, African-American student who becomes a victim of racial profiling.
The program started with the distribution of free copies of the novel to all Baltimore City Public Schools seventh- and eighth-graders and continued with free events such as youth conferences on social justice. Going forward, One Book Baltimore leaders hope that the story’s narrative surrounding race and identity will encourage young people to discuss their own experiences and challenges.
Tarnerra Davis, a junior at Carver Vocational-Technical High School, says she recognized parallels between some of the plot points in Dear Martin and the violence occurring in her own neighborhood.
Davis says the book empowered her to participate in a community discussion during one Baltimore Ceasefire weekend. “I’m into speaking out on certain things that are going on in the community if someone else isn’t going to,” she says.
To wrap up the program’s inaugural year, Stone will visit the Enoch Pratt Northwood library branch on December 12 for a discussion on the book’s racial equity and anti-violence themes.
“People don’t expect [teenagers] to speak up and be knowledgeable about these topics,” says Jaylin Jones, an eighth-grader at Southwest Baltimore Charter School. “Learning about it forwards us into being leaders on these topics and enables us to help other people understand them.”