Author Visits to New Orleans’ Schools
From the press release. Well worth noting.
A Program for Author’s Visits to New Orleans’ 9th Ward
This program is being sponsored by the Children’s Book Committee of the PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization, founded in 1921 to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. As PEN is committed to eliminating censorship worldwide, the children’s committee recognizes that the inability to become educated through social or natural disasters falls under its charter. If children cannot envision the paths available through literature to tell their stories and to understand their lives, they are experiencing the worse kind of censorship.
The PEN Children’s Book Committee is working with The Martin Luther King School in New Orleans’ lower 9th ward, the area of the city that was most devastated by the floods following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The MLK School lost 30 students and family members in the hurricane.
PEN Children’s book members have made a five-year commitment to the school to provide school visits by authors and class sets of books for teachers and students. One of the reasons the school is so excited about this program is that they have never had an author visit program in the entire history of the school.
After the hurricane, the public schools in New Orleans were essentially dismantled. The MLK School’s principal, Doris Hicks, was committed to bringing her school back—at a time when the future of all New Orleans schools was quite uncertain. After being evacuated to Dallas, she committed herself to return and to bring together her original staff and faculty. She reached out to the families of her school children, promising that they weren’t going to be abandoned. The MLK School was the only one in Louisiana that had contained a branch of the New Orleans Public Library which was the linchpin and pride of the school and community. The members of the PEN Children’s Committee first became involved with the MLK School to help replace the library when Fatima Shaik, a native of New Orleans, sought to transport the library from St. Joseph’s School in Greenwich Village, which was closing. Members of the children’s book committee — along with many family, friends, and St. Joseph’s staff — provided the physical labor and the funds to move the books and bookcases to New Orleans. The Principal, Doris Hicks, said that arrival of that moving van—loaded and packed by so many authors whom they only knew from their by-lines—gave parents and faculty the certainty that fighting for their neighborhood school was important and the return of their school could be a reality. Through these efforts and many others, the school building was rededicated on June 10, 2007 and opened in August 2007. More than 600 students registered in grades K through 8 for the 2007-08 school year. There is a waiting list of about 600 additional children. Students of all abilities are accepted into the school now as they were before the storm. Most of the students currently attending lost homes, family and their parents became unemployed.
We are looking for funding to support up to five author visits a year.
We believe that $5000 will sustain the program.
Each author will be given a subsidy of $500 for their expenses.
Class sets of the author books will be sent to the school. The class sets will remain in the classroom so that the next year the teachers will be able to use those books.
Any money raised beyond the author’s expenses will go to support the children’s own writing projects that come out of the author’s visits. It is hoped that they will get to take a home a ‘book’ that they have written themselves with their classmates.
Tax Deductible donations for the New Orleans Children’s Book author’s program should be made out to the PEN AMERICAN CENTER:
Please put a memo on the check: CBC New Orleans (Children’s Book Committee)
Checks should be send to:
Pen American Center
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, New York 10012
Attn: Michael Welch
Michael Welch can be reached at (212) 334-1660, ext. 102 or through
The funding needed is only to help subsidize the expenses of sending books to the school and the authors’ transportation and hotels.
Martin Luther King School for Science and Technology,
Doris R. Hicks, Principal
1617 Cafin Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70117
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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