Pilot program will explore how literature can empower youth

By Megan Bradshaw on March 19, 2018

TU’s Cook Library is one of 25 nationwide selected for the new Great Stories Club

Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library has been selected as one of 25 libraries in the nation—and the only academic library—to pilot the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Great Stories Club by the American Library Association (ALA). 

It is a thematic reading and discussion program series that will engage underserved teens through literature-based library outreach programs and racial healing work.

“We are honored to be selected as one of 25 libraries in the county and the only academic library to pilot the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Great Stories ClubAlbert S. Cook Library’s selection for this program reflects our commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility,” said Deborah Nolan, Ph.D., dean of university libraries at TU.

TU will implement the TRHT Great Stories Club program by drawing on partnerships between Towson’s Center for Student Diversity (CSD) and students from Baltimore City Schools.

“Our primary goals are that participants in the program get these three empowering books in their hands and get to meet each other in a space where their voices are central,” said Miriam DesHarnais, research and instruction librarian at Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library.

“By connecting the high school students with university students who are involved with Towson University’s Black Student Union, Towson Freedom School and our library’s A-LIST Student Leadership Program, we hope to provide a window into what activism and engagement on a college campus can look like,” DesHarnais added.

The TRHT Great Stories Club will feature books that explore the coming-of-age experience for young people in historically marginalized groups. The TRHT Great Stories Club is a part of the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation efforts, a comprehensive, national and community-based process to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change, and to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism.

The grantees represent twenty public libraries, two K-12 school libraries, one academic/college library and two prison libraries. DesHarnais co-wrote the successful grant application with Outreach and Student Engagement Librarian Eden Parks.

“We applied with the CSD as a partner since they have great connections with local high schools, and we have a shared sense of pride in students at Towson who are doing really innovative and inspiring work as student-activists and community members," continued DesHarnais.

If we can connect local students with both the ideas in these books, and with college students who make anti-racist work part of their daily lives, we think that could have a ripple effect. Teens are smart, and resourceful, so helping to build their capacity to effect positive social change is good for us all.” 

The libraries will work with small groups of teens to read and discuss three titles — selected by librarians and humanities scholars to resonate with reluctant readers facing difficult challenges — on the theme “Growing Up Brave on the Margins.”

Featured titles will include “Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal” by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona; “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas; and “MARCH: Book One” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell.

Participating libraries will host at least three book discussion programs and at least one interactive racial healing session, led by a racial healing practitioner familiar with the Kellogg Foundation’s TRHT framework and racial healing approach. Programming will take place between May and October 2018.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Campus