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Story by Sara Wesselmann, UNI University Relations online magazine & public relations assistant
|Guest speaker, Nothando Zulu, read to first-graders from Waterloo schools at the UNI African-American Read-In. Zulu has been telling African and African American folktales for 27 years.|
On Monday, Feb. 28, 415 first-graders from Waterloo schools gathered in the Maucker Union ballrooms to participate in the fourth annual University of Northern Iowa African-American Read-In. The read-in is a special community outreach project encouraging the youth of the Cedar Valley to learn more about the history and culture of African-Americans.
"We're celebrating the African-American culture by bringing children together and exposing them to literature," said Louise Wilder, first-grade teacher at Dr. Walter Cunningham School of Excellence. "They have the opportunity to be with children from other schools for fellowship and interaction, and they are able to leave their own schools to come to a university. This exposure is ultimately important so these children can say they've been to a college, and they can see the importance of higher learning at a young age."
|Children from Waterloo who attend Edison Elementary School, Highland Elementary School, Orange Elementary School and Dr. Walter Cunningham School of Excellence came to the African-American Read-In on Monday, Feb. 28 to listen to celebrity readers, engage in activities and spend time with children from neighboring schools.|
The read-in featured UNI and community celebrity readers from various departments on campus. UNI's mascots, TK and TC, also joined the celebration.
"This day commemorates and honors UNI's year-round dedication to being a national leader in teacher education," said
Gloria Kirkland Holmes, associate professor of early childhood education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UNI. "UNI's strategic plan and promotion of diversity within all of its colleges is so evident. Future teachers are actively involved in this read-in, which directly focuses on literacy, literature, authors and illustrators."
The first-graders gathered to hear the featured storyteller of the day, Nothando Zulu, who has been telling African and African-American folktales for more than 15 years.
"I'm really excited to be at UNI and to listen to people read to us!" said Elizabeth Anundson, a first-grade student from Waterloo.
"It is our hope that helping children learn about African-American authors and illustrators will help them begin to also realize that African-Americans contributed greatly to education and to the books read in classrooms all over the world," said Kirkland Holmes. "This also gives African-American children a greater opportunity to see and learn of the positive images portrayed in the literature. Children of various backgrounds are able to learn how African-Americans have contributed to each of our lives."