Interview with Newbery Honoree and Instructional Assistant, Alicia D. Williams
Welcome back to Chalk + Ink: The Podcast for Teachers Who Write and Writers Who Teach. Meet Alicia D. Williams, Newbery Honoree and instructional aide. Alicia is the author of the Newbery Honor novel Genesis Begins Again and Jump at the Sun, a picture book biography about Zora Neale Hurston.
During this episode, the vivacious and courageous Alicia D. Williams tackles tough topics such as the importance of diversifying the academic canon so that all children see reflections of themselves in the classroom, why children as young as five years old believe they don't belong because of their brown skin and how colorism has existed for generations yet it's not discussed or acknowledged.
In fact, when Alicia was in graduate school, one professor told her she couldn't write a novel about colorism. Luckily, Alicia sought out another professor's opinion. The second professor assured Alicia that her novel was well done and that the only reason why the first professor had told Alicia not to write Genesis Begins Again was because the topic hit too close to the bone. The novel's dedication reads, "For every person who has ever felt they weren't good enough. You were. And always will be," which is why every child should have access to this book. Who hasn't felt lesser than at some point in their life?
Of course life isn't always a struggle. There are countless joyous moments and many of them are expressed through art which is one of the reasons why Alicia wants young readers to learn about Zora Neale Hurston. Jump at the Sun is tons of fun and will give readers a peek at one of the important writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
Alicia gives great tips on how classroom teachers can spark creativity before beginning writer's workshop. One idea she talks about is splitting the class up into various groups to form a vocal orchestra. Teachers can show four different pictures of instruments and ask each group to mimic the sound of a different instrument. Then all four sounds can come together in a pre writer's workshop jam. Asking students to engage in a creative exercise before sitting down to write will help them not freeze up when it's time to put pencil to paper.
According to Alicia, every classroom should have a copy of Renee Watson's Harlem's Little Blackbird, a picture book biography about singer and dancer, Florence Mills, another important member of the Harlem Renaissance.
We also gave shout outs to Renee Watson's Some Places More Than Others and Ways to Make Sunshine and Jonah Winter's Lillian's Right to Vote.
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