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The Scarlet & Black

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High School and College collaborate to discuss literature

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Grinnell College has been working with Grinnell High School to form a collaborative book club, led by Professor Stephanie Jones, education, and Grinnell High School teacher Darien Sloat. The book club meets weekly on the first floor of the Burling Library from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

“The book club is a collaboration between the EDU/ENG 215, Reading and Writing Youth Culture course and Grinnell High School sophomores in Mr. Darien Sloat’s classroom. I thought it would be good idea to create an event on campus that highlights the relationships between the College and the community,” Jones wrote in an email to The S&B. “Forging relationships like these, through literature, helps to create a space where all students, regardless of age, background, race and gender can talk in depth about important issues. We are reading Angie Thomas’ Y.A. (Young Adult) novel, ‘The Hate U Give.’”

During the inaugural meeting of the book club on March 7, Jones spoke about her hopes for the meetings between the high school and college students to continue.

“This is the first year I’ve done the book club. … I go over to the high school every week and work with [Sloat] and the high school students and they come over [to Burling] and we read a book together,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve actually had a book club with the high school, but it’s something I hope to continue.”

“The Hate U Give” has been a New York Times bestseller for two years and is very popular in the realm of young adult literature. Perhaps more importantly, however, it is known for covering relevant and controversial topics regarding race, identity and police brutality.

“[‘The Hate U Give’] talks about police brutality, and what it means to have your identity as a Black student in white schools. So it was something that my students wanted to read, and something [Darien Sloat’s] students wanted to read so we made sure they came together and talked about it,” Jones said. “Their responses to the book were really incredible. They had some good questions about who the book was written for. Was it primarily written for white audiences to understand more about police brutality? And also some questions about relationships between people. So those types of things are important to consider, but I encourage anybody if they have to opportunity to read the book.”

Jones also noted that the club is composed of 25 students each from Grinnell High School and Grinnell College, a quite large group compared to most Grinnell College classes. However, Jones did not seem to consider the size a hindrance to good discussion.

“We just had small groups… four, five students at a time, and then we came back together and talked as a whole,” she said.

Jones also emphasized the importance of building relationships between the College and the community.

“There may be students who attend schools [in Grinnell] that feel like they can’t come to Grinnell College. And we need to have a connection with the community that the school is located in, it was here before we were,” Jones said. “So we need to make sure that we have strengthened communication between the two.”

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